Public Relations

public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most favorable light. Thus, the goal of the public relations consultant is to create, through the organization of news and advertising, an advantageous image for his client, be it a business corporation, cultural institution, or private or public individual; toward this end—the making of favorable public opinion—many research techniques and communications media are used. Although many of the same methods are employed, public relations differs from propaganda, which is generally government supported, international in scope, and political in nature. The earliest form of public relations and still the most widely practiced is publicity. The principal instrument of publicity is the press release, which provides the mass media with the raw material and background for a news story. The growth of modern public relations is generally attributed to the development of the mass media, which accelerated the spread of ideas and increased the importance of public opinion by giving more people access to current events. Public relations as a field can be traced to the early 20th cent., when American businessmen found it necessary to respond to attacks by social reformers. A milestone in the industry was the opening (1904) of Ivy Lee's publicity office in New York City. Soon there were other firms in the field, and by World War I the concept of public relations had gained general acceptance. Public relations techniques have been widely used in politics and political campaigns. By the 1960s the public relations agency had become a fact in American life, numbering among its clients branches of national, state, and local government, industry, labor, professional and religious groups, and some foreign countries.

See B. R. Canfield, Public Relations (5th ed. 1968); E. L. Bernays, The Engineering of Consent (3d ed. 1969) and Public Relations (1970); S. M. Cutlip and A. H. Center, Effective Public Relations (4th ed. 1971); J. F. Awad, The Power of Public Relations (1985); E. W. Brody and G. C. Stone, Public Relations Research (1989).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Public Relations: Selected full-text books and articles

The Public Relations Handbook By Alison Theaker Routledge, 2012 (4th edition)
Public Relations: Theory and Practice By Jane Johnston; Clara Zawawi Allen & Unwin, 2009 (3rd edition)
Political Public Relations: Principles and Applications By Jesper Strömbäck; Spiro Kiousis Routledge, 2011
The AMA Handbook of Public Relations By Robert L. Dilenschneider American Management Association, 2010
The Global Public Relations Handbook: Theory, Research, and Practice By Krishnamurthy Sriramesh; Dejan Verčič Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Strategic Planning for Public Relations By Ronald D. Smith Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005 (2nd edition)
Deconstructing Public Relations: Public Relations Criticism By Thomas J. Mickey Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Media Writing: Print, Broadcast, and Public Relations By W. Richard Whitaker; Janet E. Ramsey; Ronald D. Smith Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004 (2nd edition)
The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History By Scott M. Cutlip Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.