The paper traces negative and limiting media depictions of public relations (PR) to their origins in the 1920s in order to determine whether modern media characterizations of “public relations” are new or a legacy of the past.
A qualitative content analysis was used in order to look more deeply at media characterizations of public relations. The New York Times and Time magazine were chosen to sample because of their dominance and unique reflection of the era, respectively.
Reporting about “public relations” was primarily fair. Early practitioners were often quoted defining the profession, including “great men” of PR history and more common practitioners. These practitioners of PR are as much to blame for confounding the terms “public relations” and “press agent” as are the media of the 1920s.
This historical study sheds a light on and provides context for both the media and society's understanding of public relations today.
While much research has looked at media portrayals and public perceptions of the public relations field, few if any have traced attitudes about the profession to the decade when the term “public relations” was first popularized. The paper remedies this deficit.
Penning, T. (2008), "First impressions: US media portrayals of public relations in the 1920s", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 344-358. https://doi.org/10.1108/13632540810919800Download as .RIS
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