PR Then and Now: The Evolution of Public Relations

Public Relations (PR) is often regarded as a relatively modern profession, only emerging in the past few decades. However, the reality is that PR dates back as far as the ancient civilizations with Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra as the earliest figures of public relations in history. These practitioners had relished a massive PR success without the Internet or any technology at their disposal.

PR in its earliest forms is all about press releases. Today, it has now rapidly transformed to include social media and other modern platforms to adapt to the fast-changing society. PR agencies are consistently finding new ways to establish connections to clients while the consumer base is becoming smarter and more involved.

While it seems that PR has received a total transformation, its key elements – information, persuasion, and building trust – and its roots, remain intact.

Ready to trace the history of public relations? Read on.

PR Then and Now: The Evolution of Public Relations

PR Then and Now: The Evolution of Public Relations

PR Then and Now: The Evolution of Public Relations

The importance of communication with the public was known as early as the ancient times, dating as far back as the late 3700 BC with artifacts proving that the ancient people already had their own means of communication.
“Sematikos” is a Greek Word defined as a representation to the public or how to get people to believe in something. It is arguably the oldest definition of public relations.
3700 – 1700 BC: Cave drawings are among the earliest forms of communication.
3300 BC: Egyptian Hieroglyphs considered the “sacred carvings” as an early attempt of ancient Egyptians to record words.

Ancient Personalities that Shaped Public Relations

Before the most powerful PR professionals, there are personalities that have influenced and shaped the face of public relations back in the ancient time. Get to know the ancient influencers that strengthened the foundation of public relations.
Ptah-Hotep (2200 BC) Author of The Maxims of Ptah-Hotep, an ancient Egyptian literary emphasizing on the need to communicate with the people
Socrates (470 BC – 399 BC) One of the founders of Western philosophy who believed that effective communication should be based on truth.
Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) Author of Rhetoric, an ancient Greek treatise on the art of persuasion.
Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC) In 50 BC, he ordered the posting of Acta Diurna, regarded as the first public newsletter.

The Pioneers in Public Relations and Significant Events

As Public Relations evolved through the years, there were the pioneers in the industry. They became PR’s historical figures because of the occurrences and significant events that further established public relations as a notable profession.

Important Events in the World of Public Relations:

1440 – Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press.
1584 - Sir Walter Raleigh sent glowing reports to England about the beauty of Roanoke Island to attract new settlers. The reports were exaggerated because the land was actually swampy.
1773 – Samuel Adams, considered the Master of Propaganda, orchestrated public relations for the Revolutionary War.
1776 – Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, a pamphlet to persuade masses in support of the American Revolution.
1820 – Amos Kendall became the press secretary of President Andrew Jackson. His influence served as a catalyst for public relations to become a career.
1903 - Public relations (PR) became a profession as Ivy Lee became an advisor of John Rockefeller.
1903 - Public relations (PR) became a profession as Ivy Lee became an advisor of John Rockefeller.
1924 - Basil Clark, regarded as the first public relations professional in UK, established Editorial Services.
1928 – Edward Bernays, regarded as the Father of Public Relations, authored the influential book Propaganda.
1933 – Henry ford became the first major industrialized to resort to public relations to publicize his company and bolster its sales.

Communication Inventions (1800s to 1900s)

Telegraph - Samuel Morse 1830s
Daguerreotype - Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre 1839
Telephone - Alexander Graham Bell, 1876
Phonograph - Thomas Edison 1877
Gramophone - Emile Berliner 1887
Motion Picture Camera - Thomas Edison 1892
Wireless Telegraphy - Thomas Edison 1896
Tesla Coils - Nikola Tesla 1897
Long Distance Radio Communication - Guglielmo Marconi 1901

The Rise of Modern Digital Media

As to what Edward Bernays, one of the pioneers of PR, has said, there are 3 main elements of public relations, and these include informing people, persuading people, or integrating people with people. Through the years, these key components of PR have been preserved despite the changes that paved the way for modern digital media. Here’s a timeline that outlines the innovations that influenced the modernization in public relations.
“Sematikos” is a Greek Word defined as a representation to the public or how to get people to believe in something. It is arguably the oldest definition of public relations.
1969 - The Internet was born.
1991 - World Wide Web becomes available to the public.
1996 - Hotmail becomes the first web-based email service.
1999 - Blogger becomes one of the earliest free blog publishing platform.
2004 - Facebook is created
2006 - Twitter is launched.
2007 - The iPhone is invented.

Most Notable Uses of Digital Media

2008 – Barack Obama used social media effectively to gain the youth vote and win the presidential election.
2015 – The New York Times embraced virtual reality technology to add dimensions to storytelling.
2015 – NASA launched the mission “A Year in Space” which follows Astronaut Scott Kelly and Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko on their stay aboard the ISS. Spectators were heavily updated through social media.

Traditional PR vs. Modern PR traditional and modern PR.

Here’s a side by side comparison that will sums up the differences between traditional and modern PR.

Press Release Blogs
Print Media Digital News, Blog & Social Media
Television YouTube
Radio Live Streaming
Word of Mouth Blogger Outreach/Influencer Partnership

Evolution of PR Contacts

Traditional Modern
Contact Numbers Social Media Contacts
Reporters Influential Bloggers
Mailing Addresses E-Mail Addresses
Print Publications Web Developers

PR Profession

Traditional PR Profession

Media Liaison
Corporate Spokesperson

Modern PR Profession

Trend Spotter
Social Media Expert
Content Marketer
Influencer/Brand Ambassador

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