It’s almost Father’s Day, so we figured we should tip our hats in respect to one of the key founding fathers of public relations, Edward Bernays, who has been credited for founding and naming our profession.
In 1923, Bernays authored the first public relation book, titled “Crystallizing Public Opinion.” This book presented the profession as socially valuable and necessary in society.
We found a copy of the book, which reads as a passionate creed and constitution of what high hopes Bernays had for the field of public relations, and although some of the ideas are dated, we found a few snippets that still hold value in the field today.
“The social value of the public relations counsel lies in the fact that he brings to the public facts and ideas of social utility which would not so readily gain acceptance otherwise.”
2011 Translation: Bernays believed that public relations should be a profession that serves the public ideas and facts that are useful. If we think about the most successful PR pitches we deliver to reporters, they almost always have an angle that provides utility to the publication’s readers, even if it’s something the reader had not previously known about.
“must be able to generalize, as far as possible, from these points of view in order to strike upon the appeal or group of appeals which will be influential with as many sections of society as possible”
2011 Translation: The best client PR campaigns should carry the ability to pique the interest of any targeted party, so long as the party’s needs are understood first. If a PR person knows what each section of a particular society needs, a PR practitioner can fine-tune client messaging to appeal to everyone.
“Therefore, the public relations counsel must maintain an intense scrutiny of his actions, avoiding propagation of unsocial or otherwise harmful movements or ideas.”
2011 Translation: Basically, public relations shall maintain an ethical profession that does not promote harmful movements or ideas. This makes me think of the film, “Thank You for Smoking.” Unfortunately PR does exist for harmful industries, but I’m sure when Bernays wrote this, no one knew how harmful cigarettes even were.
Bernays concludes “Crystallizing Public Opinion” with this hopeful line: “It is in the creation of a public conscience that the counsel on public relations is destined, I believe, to fulfill his highest usefulness to the society in which he lives.”
I think that for the most part, we would have made our founding father proud.[scribd id=5369599 key=key-1sq4vjwfhzo7k31ryocz mode=slideshow]