Ariel Abramowitz LA 200 Current Opportunities in Public Relations The phrase “public relations” brings many images to mind, many of which are incorrect. Most people view public relations as a field that revolves entirely around being a company or individual’s cheerleader, bringing to light all of the good things for a client and ignoring the bad. Public relations is not the life of Samantha Jones on “Sex and the City” or the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.” When someone hears the phrase public relations, they will first think of Tiger Woods, his late night car accident, and the voicemail left on one of his mistress’s cell phones or perhaps Britney Spears walking into a public restroom barefoot and her shaving her head in a hair salon. It is so much more than promoting celebrities, movies, and music artists. Public relations is not just about seeking publicity or acting as a palace guard defending a corporation’s image from the press. To a true seasoned public relations professional, the phrase public relations brings to mind the cyanide poisonings that Tylenol had to deal with during the late 1980s and more recently, the issue Toyota has been having with recalling its vehicles. The way these companies have handled their mistakes shows what public relations is all about and why there are currently over 160,000 practitioners of this field worldwide. 1 It is why over 200 universities have established accredited public relations programs. 2 The public relations professional is the second most important person in a company, behind only the Chief Executive Officer. Public relations is about advising clients how to make the right decisions and preventing situations before they occur, sharing messages and information through multiple media channels, and developing mutually beneficial relationships for both companies and its consumers. This field combines elements from journalism, advertising, and marketing and creates a unique, creative way to disseminate information. Specifically, it is defined as the deliberate, planned, and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its publics.3 Although considered a relatively new field, public relations has been around for an extremely long time. When looking back in history, the Rosetta Stone from 196 BC can be considered perhaps the world’s oldest press release. Jesus of Nazareth and his Apostles Peter and Paul were using public relations tactics when spreading Christianity, as was the Catholic Church with its use of propaganda by Pope Gregory XV.4 This country’s most famous staged event was from the Colonial Era - the Boston Tea Party. It is considered one of the greatest and best-known publicity stunts of all time.5 Public relations made its debut in the federal government in 1829 when Amos Kendall, in effect, became the first White House press secretary for President Andrew Jackson.6 Kendall, a writer and editor from Kentucky, became one of Jackson’s most influential assistants. He wrote speeches, state papers and news releases, conducted opinion polls, and developed the administration’s own newspaper.7 However, it wasn’t until 1889 that Westinghouse Corporation developed the first ever in-house publicity department. George Westinghouse established this department to promote his creation of alternating current (AC) electricity against the direct current of Edison General Electric Company.8 Westinghouse’s concept of a public relations department has grown into a basic part of today’s business world.9 In the early 20th century, Ivy Ledbetter Lee, a journalist and publicist, distinguished himself as the first public relations counselor. His novel “Declaration of Principles,” written in 1906, called for honesty with the press and the public.10 This was the first time anyone had dared to address the “public be damned” attitude that many corporations followed so religiously, by asking companies to “supply the press with all possible information.”11 Lee was hired by the anthracite coal industry to advise it toward settling a strike and actually convinced railroad workers that were on strike to talk to the press. He became one of the most sought-after advisors of his time because of his work for John D. Rockefeller. In 1904 Lee founded the public relations counseling office Ivy Lee & Associates, the nation’s third publicity agency at the time.12 Additionally, Lee is recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern public relations. Another American pioneer in the field of public relations along with Ivy Lee was Edward Louis Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays developed public relations as an applied social science by applying psychology in different public persuasion campaigns.13 He believed that audiences could be persuaded if the messages they were receiving supported their values and interests. In 1923, Bernays’ novel Crystallizing Public Opinion provided principles and practices for this emerging profession.14 Bernays was a press agent and public relations to many clients, including Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge, the American Tobacco Company, General Electric, Dodge Motors, the NACCP, and many others. One of his most popular campaigns was in the 1920s with the cigarette company Lucky Strikes. At the time, it was illegal for women to smoke in public, creating a taboo surrounding cigarettes for the female population. The president of American Tobacco, George Washington Hill, hired Bernays to expand the customer base for Lucky Strikes specifically to women.15 Bernays researched why women felt compelled and attracted to the idea of smoking and found that women used cigarettes as a form of liberation, a sign of the new free women of the Roaring Twenties. Using this information Bernays constructed his cleverly named “Torches of Freedom” campaign.16 In the campaign Bernays urged women to “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” On March 31, 1929, the day of the Easter Parade, a woman named Bertha Hunt and several other women were instructed by Bernays to step into a crowd of people while dressed in their Sunday best and light up their cigarettes. Coincidentally the press was there as Hunt and her friends were lighting up. Hunt explained to the press that she devised the idea of smoking with her friends at the parade as a protest. The cigarettes were described the following day in the New York Times as “torches of freedom,” a step towards equality between men and women.17 Bernays had many other famous campaigns. In October 1929, he helped to promote the 50th anniversary celebration of Thomas Edison’s invention light bulb through “Light’s Golden Jubilee.”18 This event spanned across several major cities and advocated for people to shut off all of their lights for one minute. Bernays also used his uncle Freud’s ideas to help convince the public that bacon and eggs was the true all-American breakfast.19 Another world famous public relations campaign that Bernays was involved in was with Proctor and Gamble, a company Bernays worked closely with for more than thirty years. Bernays used a variety of community relations, crisis communications, public affairs, and media campaigns to advance the P&G name. Hired in 1923, Bernays was to provide support for advertising Ivory soap. Through research he found that Ivory was the only white unperfumed soap on the market, which the public actually preferred. Always a fan of contests, Bernays created the National Soap Sculpture Competition in White Soap that inspired over 22 million school-age children to find their “creative and artistic expression.”20 Children, the enemies of soap, baths, and cleanliness in general, would be conditioned to enjoy using Ivory soap. Proctor and Gamble made this an annual event, with the winning sculptures sent to national exhibitions in New York and museums around the country, earning international media coverage. This contest continued for a quarter of a century “symbolizing white floating Ivory soap.”21 Bernays had such an impact on the profession of public relations as a whole that he was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine.22 After World War II, the field of public relations exploded. Companies began to open public relations departments, new firms were established nationwide, and the government expanded its public affairs efforts. By the 1950s, there were over 17,000 men employed in the public relations.23 Today, there are over 7,000 firms in the United States, ranging from one person to 3,000 employees in a single firm. The fifty largest accounted for over $6 billion in revenues in 2006 alone.24 The reason public relations saw so much growth in recent years is because corporations finally began to understand the unbelievable benefits of having a strong public relations department. There are three main reasons as to why this was possible. First, this is a very cost efficient field in comparison to both advertising and marketing. Secondly, as mentioned previously, management realized the value of public relations. Public relations materials save time, money, and legwork. Publicists are considered newspapers “unpaid reporters.” And third, the penalties for ignoring public relations became extremely noticeable - mistakes a corporation made would show up on the 5 o’clock evening news and appear in the morning headlines of newspapers. Public relations is shown to reduce litigation, regulation, and legislation costs for a company.25 Additionally, it cultivates relationships with not only employees but also donors, customers, shareholders, and legislators. A good head of communications is expected to have general knowledge of business, but a detailed knowledge of the company they are working for. They should be a team player, an educator (they must the CEO and the rest of the company), have the ability to anticipate situations, and develop extensive internal relationships in order to understand what employees are thinking. Any public relations professional must be able to write or they will not survive the field. They should not only be creative but persuasive as well. Public relations people are seen as the suppliers of news to newspapers editors, however they must understand what is actually considered newsworthy. Does it have prominence? Is it actually important and time sensitive? In an ideal world there would be mutual cooperation, trust, and respect between public relations professionals and the media. In reality journalists accuse public relations people of failing to do research, becoming a nuisance for the media, and creators of hype. On the other hand, public relations people see journalists as being biased reporters who are obsessed with sensationalism. Journalists set out to inform and public relations sets out to persuade. However, both journalists and public relations professionals continue to work together because they need each other to survive - public relations people need to get their information publicized and journalists need public relations people in order to get inside source information to use for their stories. An entry level public relations professional will earn approximately $30,000 a year, compared to $27,000 for entry level journalists and $24,400 a year for television broadcasters. The national average is $81,000 a year for public relations professionals, although there is a serious gender gap with men having a median yearly salary for $105,000 compared to women at $70,000.26 However, this number can vary greatly depending on the specific department of public relations that an individual is working in, in addition to company, location, experience and benefits. Many recent college graduates are public relations managers. Public relations managers plan and direct programs designed to create and maintain a favorable public image for the employer or the client. This may mean writing press releases or composing media kits or sponsoring corporate events to help maintain and improve the image and identity of the employer or the client. Public relations managers tend to specialize in a specific area, like crisis management, or a specific industry, such as healthcare.27 When graduating, before deciding on a particular public relations path, a student has to determine whether they want to work for a public relations firm or for in an-house public relations department. An independent public relations firm has the advantage of being objective towards a client and product, with a variety of skills and expertise available for a company to utilize. Additionally a specialized firm will have offices nationwide with extensive resources and special problem-solving creditability. On the other side, a firm is at an extreme disadvantage because they lack a complete understanding of the business’s needs. They would not be dedicated full-time to this commitment. If this company or client had their own public relations department, there would be resentment between the department and the company. The firm would also be more likely to juggle multiple clients, never having one hundred percent of the focus on a particular problem. A public relations firm would give an individual the opportunity to tackle many different clients and gain unique experiences from each campaign, while a corporation or company would give an individual the chance to learn the inner-workings of one particular business and how to cater to its specific needs. There are obviously positives and negatives for each but in the end it is a personal decision. Public relations is a great field to consider because it has so many different genres, as well as great job prospects. Whether a person is looking for a small non-profit organization where he or she can have an extremely hands-on approach with brand imaging, event planning, and media relations or a large, globally recognized public relations firm where he or she is responsible for one individual client, public relations has it all. From entertainment to fashion to crisis communications to government affairs, any individual with a knack for writing and a creative flair should consider the public relations field and what it has to offer. NOTES: 1 Manuel, Steve. "Intro to Public Relations." Comm 370. College of Communications. Pennsylvania State University, University Park. 25 Aug. 2009. Lecture. 2 IBID 3 IBID 4 Manuel, Steve. "Evolution of Public Relations." Comm 370. College of Communications. Pennsylvania State University, University Park. 03 Sept. 2009. 5 IBID 6 "Public Relations, History." Buffalo State College Faculty and Staff Web Server. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2010. <http://faculty.buffalostate.edu/smithrd/PR/pioneers.htm>. 7 IBID 8 "Ch. 4 Public Relations Departments and Firms « From the mind of Eryn." From the mind of Eryn. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2010. <http://epond6.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/ch-4-public-relations-departments-and- firms/>. 9 IBID 10 "Public Relations, History." Buffalo State College Faculty and Staff Web Server. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2010. <http://faculty.buffalostate.edu/smithrd/PR/pioneers.htm>. 11 Manuel, Steve. "Evolution of Public Relations." Comm 370. College of Communications. Pennsylvania State University, University Park. 03 Sept. 2009. 12 IBID 13 "Public Relations, History." Buffalo State College Faculty and Staff Web Server. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2010. <http://faculty.buffalostate.edu/smithrd/PR/pioneers.htm>. 14 Manuel, Steve. "Evolution of Public Relations." Comm 370. College of Communications. Pennsylvania State University, University Park. 03 Sept. 2009. 15 "The Torches of Freedom Campaign: Marketing, Feminism and Lucky Strike Cigarettes - Associated Content - associatedcontent.com." Associated Content - associatedcontent.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2010. <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/288980/the_torches_of_freedom_campaign_ marketing.html/>. 16 IBID 17 IBID 18 Manuel, Steve. "Evolution of Public Relations." Comm 370. College of Communications. Pennsylvania State University, University Park. 03 Sept. 2009. 19 "Freud's Nephew and the Origins of Public Relations : NPR." NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2010. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4612464>. 20 "The Museum of Public Relations." The Museum of Public Relations. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2010. <http://www.prmuseum.com/bernays/bernays_1923.html>. 21 IBID 22 "Public Relations, History." Buffalo State College Faculty and Staff Web Server. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2010. <http://faculty.buffalostate.edu/smithrd/PR/pioneers.htm>. 23 Manuel, Steve. "Evolution of Public Relations." Comm 370. College of Communications. Pennsylvania State University, University Park. 03 Sept. 2009. 24 Manuel, Steve. "PR Departments and Firms." Comm 370. College of Communications. Pennsylvania State University, University Park. 08 Sept. 2009. 25 IBID 26 Manuel, Steve. "PR Vs. Advertising, PR Vs. Marketing, Areas of Public Relations." Comm 370. College of Communications. Pennsylvania State University, University Park. 01 Sept. 2009. 27 "Advertising, Marketing, Promotions, Public Relations, and Sales Managers ." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2010. <http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos020.htm>.
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