Coronavirus Update: Our team is here to help our clients and readers navigate these difficult times. Visit our Resources page now »

Skip to Main Content

Home Explore Careers

Public Relations Managers

History

The origins of public relations date back to the time of ancient Greece, when philosophers such as Socrates and Plato used their oratory skills to persuade the public to agree with their views.

One of the first public relations specialists was Ivy Ledbetter Lee, a newspaper reporter. He was hired by the Standard Oil Company, as well as the family of John D. Rockefeller Jr., to manage the company crisis brought on by unrest by coal miners. Another early industry pioneer was Edward Bernays, often referred to as the "father of public relations." He listed actors, presidents, the government, nonprofit organizations, and large corporations as clients. One of his most memorable and successful public relations campaigns was for Proctor & Gamble's Ivory Soap. Public surveys indicated the nation's preference for unscented soap. He capitalized on the fact that Ivory Soap so happened to be the only unscented soap on the market. Bernays organized sporting events such as soap yacht races in New York's Central Park, and nationwide contests such as the annual Ivory soap sculpting contest, promoting the product to the public. All events were widely covered in the media.

Chester Burger, another pioneer, was one of the first public relations professionals to use the medium of television to tell a story. His clientele included Sears Roebuck, the American Cancer Society, and Texas Instruments, Inc.

In 1947, the Public Relations Society of America was founded as a way to establish industry standards and provide support and education for public relations professionals. In the 1950s, it established the "Code for the Professional Standards for the Practice of Public Relations," which is still widely used by the industry.