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Article
Publication date: 14 November 2008

Jacquie L'Etang

The purpose of this paper is to argue that public relations (PR) history‐writing has profoundly shaped the discipline and that its US bias may have limited theoretical…

6822

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to argue that public relations (PR) history‐writing has profoundly shaped the discipline and that its US bias may have limited theoretical developments. The author aims to explore the challenges in writing PR history and to consider some of the strategic philosophical issues and challenges that face historians.

Design/methodology/approach

Historical interpretations are shaped by authors' social constructions and thus the paper is written reflexively. The author discusses the way in which histories are structured and patterned by their authors' assumptions and values about the nature of time; human civilisation, progressivism, situationalism, inevitability, human agency, cultural change, flux and transformation.

Findings

Existing (largely US) PR historical writing is analysed in terms of its theoretical impact through the “four models” and it is argued that this typology is not appropriately applied to other cultures with different paths of historical evolution. As a way of demonstrating this point, key aspects of British developments in the twentieth century are drawn out to reveal a dozen “models” of PR practice that could potentially form the basis of theoretical research.

Originality/value

Overall, the paper contributes a discussion of historical methodology in relation to PR; shows the connection between history and theory‐building in PR; and demonstrates that history from other cultures can reveal alternative models for theoretical development.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 12 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 2 August 2011

Oliver Raaz and Stefan Wehmeier

This paper seeks to compare different national PR histories in order to unfold the degree of abstract reflection in PR history writing. It aims to provide some suggestions…

3104

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to compare different national PR histories in order to unfold the degree of abstract reflection in PR history writing. It aims to provide some suggestions for a future PR historiography, based on this comparison.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper compares British, German, and US American PR historiography. The study is based on a comparison of 36 PR histories. A triple matrix of theoretization is used in order to differentiate the histories.

Findings

Within the comparison American PR historiography accounts for 24 public relations history approaches, whereas Great Britain (1) and Germany (11) offer fewer histories. However, this richness in quantity does not lead to theoretical diversification. Owing to the paradigmatic obligation to a progressivist understanding, American PR historiography actually entails only one theoretic approach, while its German equivalent includes three different theoretic approaches and British PR historiography – being at its start – at least contains one explicitly non‐progressivist, methodologically well‐informed, fact‐oriented example. Paradoxically, the prevailing American PR historiography, on the one hand, conceptualizes PR as a modern phenomenon but, on the other hand, claims even ancient beginnings.

Research limitations/implications

The corpus of analysis contains only studies that attempt to supply an encompassing overview of (national) PR history.

Practical implications

Public relations managers may use these findings to achieve a more nuanced critical understanding of the history of their occupation, and thereby reflect on its current state, which may lead to intensified ethical endeavours.

Originality/value

The paper presents a pioneer systematic comparison of the three national PR histories, which may lead to enhanced national and general PR historiography. Another value is the establishment of a theoretically informed comparative measuring instrument, which (in future) can also be applied in order to compare and improve other national PR historiographies.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 15 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 12 August 2020

Kate Fitch and Jacquie L'Etang

The aim of this paper is to begin a conversation about historicising the public relations (PR) curriculum in universities.

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to begin a conversation about historicising the public relations (PR) curriculum in universities.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper discusses PR history and historiography to identify the underlying ideological and methodological influences. It considers scholarship on PR education, and the inclusion or, more often, the exclusion of history except where it serves to reinforce a narrative of steady, and apparently unproblematic, professional development. The paper reviews the presentation of history in textbooks and discusses the authors' experiences of teaching PR history. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the inclusion of history in the PR curriculum offers an important critical intervention in PR education.

Findings

The PR curriculum tends to meet industry expectations around practice and skills in order to develop students as future practitioners. But this paper argues that a more historical and historiographical understanding of PR can develop in students important skills in research, analysis and interpretation. It can also introduce students to working with ambiguity and alternate perspectives. Foregrounding new histories and challenging existing histories introduce students to richer and more complex understandings of PR. It also introduces students to epistemology and ethics, and therefore offers a way to introduce critical thinking into the curriculum.

Originality/value

A more historical understanding of PR develops student skills in research, analysis and interpretation as well as critical thinking.

Details

Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 25 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1356-3289

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 2 August 2011

Donald K. Wright

The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical analysis of the history and development of public relations education in the USA and Canada.

1821

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical analysis of the history and development of public relations education in the USA and Canada.

Design/methodology/approach

The research methodology used for this paper is the historical/critical analysis approach.

Findings

This paper finds more differences than similarities between public relations educational development in the two countries. The first PR course at a US university was taught at the University of Illinois in 1920 and the first US degree program was offered by Boston University in 1947. The first Canadian university PR course was taught at McGill University n 1948 and the first university degree was offered by Mount Saint Vincent University in 1977. Although PR courses and degrees are offered at a small number of élite US universities, the greatest recent PR curriculum development has been at smaller, second‐ or third‐tier institutions. While a few Canadian universities offer courses and degree programs in the field, most of Canada's recent PR program growth has been at colleges rather than at universities.

Practical implications

Rightly or wrongly, academic institutions often look to North America for direction when it comes to establishing and developing public relations education programs. A number of factual inaccuracies about public relations education history have frequently surfaced in books and journal articles. This paper corrects a number of those inaccuracies and in doing so improves public relations scholarship.

Originality/value

A thorough review of the literature suggests that this paper represents the only journal‐length piece about the history and development of public relations education in Canada and the USA.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 15 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 14 November 2008

Natalia Rodríguez Salcedo

This paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of the origins of Spanish public relations from the end of the nineteenth to the early twentieth century. Although…

1426

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of the origins of Spanish public relations from the end of the nineteenth to the early twentieth century. Although the term “public relations” was an export to Europe by the end of the second world war (with some exceptions), its philosophy had already been practised in some countries, and countries not always under a democratic regime, as the Spanish case shows.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach taken is a literature review of the first Spanish communication journals, oral interviews with the pioneers in the field and documentary research of the unpublished professional archive of the first Spanish agency, established in 1960.

Findings

The first “public relations” campaigns did not appear until the very late 1950s. However, a closer look reveals the existence of precedents in the first half of the century though under other names such as “educational” and “prestige” advertising, or “propaganda” campaigns. Despite being considered as isolated experiences, they prove the phenomenon precedes the name of “public relations”.

Practical implications

This paper places special emphasis on two lines of emergence for public relations. First, the profession in Spain naturally evolved and stemmed from advertising and, due to historical reasons, it was also related to communicative initiatives known as “propaganda”. Second, once the practitioners heard about the American term “public relations”, the precedents seemed to be ignored and were replaced by the influence of other countries' experiences, thanks to the wide vision of the pioneers.

Originality/value

There is little research on the origins of public relations in Spain and none on the precedents. This paper fills in some of the gaps.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 12 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 13 February 2009

Klement Podnar and Ursa Golob

The purpose of this paper is to introduce a historical development of public relations from its early days until 1970. The study aims to show that in the early stages of…

6213

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to introduce a historical development of public relations from its early days until 1970. The study aims to show that in the early stages of development public relations was closely linked with public opinion research.

Design/methodology/approach

A historical content analysis is used to establish a “story of identity” through a review of selected articles from Public Opinion Quarterly from 1937 to 1970.

Findings

A clear finding is that public relations was once an integral part of public opinion science but later changed its focus to the management field, interested in reaching different publics. From the very beginning public relations was a subject of academic interest.

Research limitations/implications

This paper has a few limitations; one that stands out is that selected articles were analysed from only one journal, which does not offer the recent material (after 1970 and especially from the 1990s). At the end, the paper raises some questions, which should aid the discussion about the identity crisis of public relations discipline (and managerial function) in the postmodern era.

Originality/value

The paper attempts to cover the gap in an interactive relationship between two disciplines: communication studies and public relations. It contributes to the knowledge of historical development of public relations as an academic discipline.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 13 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 2 November 2015

Mary Welch

This historical analysis investigates treatment of the important discipline of internal communication in a number of globally influential public relations education…

3122

Abstract

Purpose

This historical analysis investigates treatment of the important discipline of internal communication in a number of globally influential public relations education frameworks over time. The purpose of this paper is to develop insight with the potential to inform future education and professional development programmes.

Design/methodology/approach

The conceptual framework for the study is set via discussion of the historical approach, internal communication, professionalization, and knowledge. The historical critical analysis research methodology is used to study data sources including professional body reports and archival documentation. Deductive and inductive coding is combined with template analysis to ensure rigorous qualitative data analysis.

Findings

The study finds inconsistent treatment of the internal communication discipline in public relations education frameworks over time. Distinct inclusion was found in early frameworks, clear recognition of the growing importance of internal communication was evident in later guidelines, but the study discovers that the discipline has been excluded from recent frameworks.

Research limitations/implications

While the study draws on relevant data sources credited with international influence, it is limited to sources published in English.

Practical implications

Practical educational and methodological implications of the research are discussed along with avenues for further research including surveys or qualitative research to investigate contemporary views held by practitioners and educators on internal communication curricula.

Social implications

Social and management implications are discussed including a call for the reinstatement of internal communication in globally influential public relations education frameworks.

Originality/value

The discipline of internal communication is still understudied which is surprising given its impact on organisational effectiveness. Furthermore, little previous attention has been paid to the history of internal communication education. This paper tackles that void, finds inconsistent treatment of the discipline in education frameworks over time, and contributes discussion on why these inconsistencies have occurred.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 19 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 14 November 2008

Patricia A. Curtin

This paper aims to examine the entrepreneurial Fred Harvey Company's early public relations and publicity efforts to determine what they add to our knowledge of the…

4977

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine the entrepreneurial Fred Harvey Company's early public relations and publicity efforts to determine what they add to our knowledge of the development of public relations in the USA.

Design/methodology/approach

This historical analysis uses mainly data gleaned from an in‐depth examination of the two archival sources available: the Fred Harvey Company photographs and papers at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ (at about ten linear feet, the most complete collection of Harvey materials), and the Fred Harvey Collection at the University of Arizona (photographs, correspondence, and miscellaneous records).

Findings

Although the dominant historical perspective has labeled this era the “Seedbed Years” and characterized them as “a day of business arrogance toward employee and citizen alike”, this case suggests that other models of practice were in use that developed out of differing cultural milieux. To the dominant view of public relations developing in the USA as a result of business pressures, then, should be added the perspective of organizational culture and the role it played in the development and professionalism of the field.

Research limitations/implications

This one case study cannot be generalized to the whole field; however, the findings support those of a growing number of other scholars (Sullivan, Piasecki), suggesting that the dominant evolutionary paradigm of US public relations history artificially constricts our understanding of the field.

Practical implications

The insider's perspective gained through this study has implications for professionalism, integrated communications, and ethical practice.

Originality/value

This paper examines a previously unknown case in US public relations history and sheds light on early public relations and publicity methods that challenge the dominant paradigm in US scholarship. The notion of press agentry as the dominant practice is explored and challenged.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 12 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 2 August 2011

Elisabetta Bini, Ferdinando Fasce and Toni Muzi Falconi

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the emergence and development of public relations in Italy between 1945 and 1960. Its aim is to examine the main actors (corporate…

1014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the emergence and development of public relations in Italy between 1945 and 1960. Its aim is to examine the main actors (corporate and political) involved in the process, how they were influenced by the USA and the emergence of professional associations devoted to expanding the field

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on research conducted in US and Italian archives and libraries. It analyzes primary sources concerning corporations, government agencies and professional associations involved in promoting public relations in post‐war Italy, such as the United States Information Service, Standard Oil (NJ), Fiat, Piaggio, Olivetti, Pirelli, Intersind.

Findings

This paper argues that the introduction of public relations in postwar Italy was strongly influenced by US companies and government agencies, which had a considerable impact on the emergence of professional associations. It also looks at the specific Italian definitions of public relations and points out that in Italy the field of public relations emphasized the importance of “style” and culture over that of marketing, and was often carried out by an array of “humanists” (poets, graphic designers, and writers).

Originality/value

This paper is one of the first studies about the history of public relations in Italy. It points out the peculiarity of the Italian case, by showing the intersection between the terms “propaganda” and “public relations” in a country that had experienced 20 years of Fascist rule.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 15 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 29 April 2014

Damian John Gleeson

– The purpose of this paper is to explore the foundation and development of public relations education (PRE) in Australia between 1950 and 1975.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the foundation and development of public relations education (PRE) in Australia between 1950 and 1975.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper utilises Australian-held primary and official industry association material to present a detailed and revisionist history of PR education in Australia in its foundation decades.

Findings

This paper, which locates Australia's first PRE initiatives in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in the 1960s, contests the only published account of PR education history by Potts (1976). The orthodox account, which has been repeated uncritically by later writers, overlooks earlier initiatives, such as the Melbourne-based Public Relations Institute of Australia, whose persistence resulted in Australia's first PR course at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1964. So too, educational initiatives in Adelaide and Sydney pre-date the traditional historiography.

Originality/value

A detailed literature review suggests this paper represents the only journal-length piece on the history of PRE in Australia. It is also the first examination of relationships between industry, professional institutes, and educational authorities.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 18 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

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