The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History

The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History

The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History

The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History

Synopsis

Based largely on primary sources, this book presents the first detailed history of public relations from 1900 through the 1960s. The author utilized the personal papers of John Price Jones, Ivy L. Lee, Harry Bruno, William Baldwin III, John W. Hill, Earl Newsom as well as extensive interviews -- conducted by the author himself -- with Pendleton Dudley, T. J. Ross, Edward L. Bernays, Harry Bruno, William Baldwin, and more. Consequently, the book provides practitioners, scholars, and students with a realistic inside view of the way public relations has developed and been practiced in the United States since its beginnings in mid-1900. For example, the book tells how:
• President Roosevelt's reforms of the Square Deal brought the first publicity agencies to the nation's capital.
• Edward L. Bernays, Ivy Lee, and Albert Lasker made it socially acceptable for women to smoke in the 1920s.
• William Baldwin III saved the now traditional Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in its infancy.
• Ben Sonnenberg took Pepperidge Farm bread from a small town Connecticut bakery to the nation's supermarket shelves -- and made millions doing it.
• Two Atlanta publicists, Edward Clark and Bessie Tyler, took a defunct Atlanta bottle club, the Ku Klux Klan, in 1920 and boomed it into a hate organization of three million members in three years, and made themselves rich in the process.
• Earl Newsom failed to turn mighty General Motors around when it was besieged by Ralph Nader and Congressional advocates of auto safety. This book documents the tremendous role public relations practitioners play in our nation's economic, social, and political affairs -- a role that goes generally unseen and unobserved by the average citizen whose life is affected in so many ways by the some 150,000 public relations practitioners.

Excerpt

Publication of this book is the culmination of more than 40 years of research in the history of public relations in the United States and its strong impact on American society, an impact that generally goes unseen and unobserved. As I have explained elsewhere, my research had its genesis in a series of stimulating conversations over lunch, over dinner, and in the late hours with two long-time friends, the late Merrill Jensen and Merle Curti, two great American historians of the 20th Century. On many occasions, Professor Jensen and I extolled the exploits of Samuel Adams and his hardy band in bringing off the American Revolution. My discussions with Professor Curti focused on the role of public relations in our economic, political, and social history. Like most academics, these and other friends were highly critical of public relations and generally saw it as a corrosive element in our society.

As an author and teacher in this field since 1946, 1 would repeatedly cite chapter and verse to these critics of the good for society that can be accomplished through ethical, effective public relations. This book presents ample evidence of this good (e.g., Carl Byoir's innovative fund raising that eliminated the fear of polio from parents' hearts). I held, and still hold, that only through the expertise of public relations can causes, industries, individuals, and institutions make their voice heard in the public forum where thousands of shrill, competing voices daily re-create the Tower of Babel. I did not and do not deny the harm done by the incompetent, the charlatan, and those who serve dubious causes. There is also ample evidence in this book of this harm done to the public good. For example John W. Hill's 10-year campaign to deny and obfuscate the damage to a person's . . .

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