A Brief History of Public Relations

The dissemination of information has been used as a tool to influence change for thousands of years. Evidence shows that as far back as 4,000 years ago, information in the form of stone tablets was being handed out to Mesopotamian farmers- giving them handy tips and hints on how to improve productivity- including information on how to deal with field mice!

With the industrialisation of society and the formation of many new organisations with political or commercial interests came the conscious understanding and widespread use of communications. The newspaper was the first medium through which messages were transmitted to large numbers of the public, while early forms of the in-house journal were used to inform staff and customer alike of developments within an organisation, or to deliver a sales message.

Public relations really took off in the United States before anywhere else in the world. This is partly because America was not as negatively impacted by the Second World War. Advertising and PR marched forwards, side by side, and experienced massive growth. Both tools were widely used by manufacturers of consumer goods such as hairspray, cigarettes, chocolate bars, beer and eventually cars. Slowly, organisations began to realise that PR could also be used in the corporate and financial fields and also for reputation and issues and crises management.

Public relations has come a long way since it first started being recognised as a valuable business tool. Now, practitioners can study for official qualifications and a whole new era of public relations is being heralded in, in the form of online communications...