Evolution of Modern Public Relations

Instructor: LeRon Haire
This lesson will address and analyze just how modern public relations has evolved over the course of time. We will trace the sequential order of public relations from its origins to today's modern times.


The Journey of Public Relations

Throughout the course of history, public relations, which is a coordinated set of activities designed to create and maintain positive relationships between an organization and the public, has been a part of our culture and environment. But just how far have we come in terms of the evolution of modern public relations? To get an accurate answer, we must first determine the origins of public relations. Let's take a look at the evolution of modern public relations over time.


Modest Beginnings

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, public relations has been around longer than most people realize. As early as World War I (1914-1918), public relations has existed in some shape or form. During those times, public relations played a major part in helping to share political propaganda. Propaganda, which is a form of public relations, can be defined as oftentimes misleading, but persuasive, information used to sway public perception to a certain point of view.

During this period, public relations was a key factor because of its ability to increase support for The World War through the use of persuasion and posters. These posters often illustrated support for America and the American way with pictures of Uncle Sam and the U.S. Army or an American family wearing red, white, and blue.

As time progressed into the 1960s and 1970s, public relations began to take on a completely new role. During the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, many used public relations to voice their opinions over the way that many individuals were treated during that period.

The period of the 1970s was a time that marked the emergence of television as mainstream and organizations pounced upon the chance to communicate with the public. For example, Saturday morning cartoons were now becoming infiltrated with commercials designed to attract children to products such as cereal or toys due to the age of the viewers during that time.

Public Relations and the Private Sector

The evolution of public relations includes how it has affected the private sector. For those that may be unfamiliar or need a refresher, the private sector is simply the portion of the national economy that is not under the control of the government. Unlike organizations in the public sector, many private sector businesses do not receive the publicity and fanfare experienced by their public counterparts. For this reason, public relations plays an even bigger role in helping these companies remain relevant by communicating with the public.

While the public sector is often able to sustain without public relations, in part because its industries (health, education, and tourism, etc.) are often a part of the fabric of the community, private sector entities such as doctors and lawyers use public relations as a means to relate to the public and acquire patients and clients.

Do you remember the last time that you have seen an ad or a commercial advertising your primary care physician? While there are some advertisements for some doctors out there, they pale in comparison to ads and commercials for the public sector and its businesses.


Current PR Uses

In today's hustle-and-bustle market, organizations are sure to leave no stone unturned in their quest to get, and remain, ahead of their industry competitors. As we've seen so far, public relations has been a significant part of our world for decades and its evolution has led us to how it is used today. Let's take a closer look at a comparison of public relations then and now to grasp just how far things have progressed.

  • Television vs YouTube

In the past, much of public relations was performed on television (such as in the form of commercials). However, the advent of social media and the internet has given rise to outlets such as YouTube, which allows on-demand streaming and viewing of messages or ads placed by organizations.

  • News reporters vs. Bloggers

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