Emergence of Public Relations


Tracing Growth of Public Relations:

Rowan University Communication Institute (2000) has published a brief history of Public Relations (PR). In this literature, it is stated that the concept of PR is not new in the world. It is as old as 1000 of years. The Greek Word “Samatikos” which means to “Signify”, “to mean”. Semantikos means “Semantics” which can be defined as how to get people to believe things and o things. The whole concept of tracing the growth of PR is divided into 4 parts as per Grunig and Hunt Models (1984) that describes the field’s various management and organizational practices. These models serve as a guideline to understand the brief history of PR.

In 50 BC, Julius Caesar in his campaign biography “Caesar’s Gallic Wars” publicized his military exploits to convince the Roman people that he would make the best head of state.

In 394 A.D., St. Augustine, A professor of rhetoric in Milan, Italy considered as an in charge of PR who propagated the regular eulogies to the emperor.

In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote “Crisis” a pamphlet to convince the Washington army soldiers to stay and fight. Paine was considered as a master of political propaganda whose writings was giving a strong impact on people to do things and believe things.

Benjamin Franklin, who used to give lots of positive assertions pioneered the rules for ‘Personal Relations’ before mass media.

P.T.Barnum in 19th Century in the U.S. was a master of promotion. William Saward, Lincoln’s secretary in 1861 was an expert to handle the press. In 1903, Ivy Lee officially became the first PR to advise John D. Rockefeller on PR issues. Lee professionalized PR by following these principles:-

  • Tell the truth
  • Provide accurate facts
  • The PR director must have access to top management and must be able to influence decisions

Ivy Lee defined PR quote, “PR means an actual relationship of the company to the people and that relationship involves more than a talk.”

In 1923, Edward Bernays, another stalwart in PR set up principles of PR and focus more on crystallizing public opinion. He also stressed that PR is a public service, should promote new ideas and progress to build public conscience. Edward Bernays, known as the father of PR and Ivy Lee, the first PR as a counselor.

Later in the 1960s and 1970s, the definition of PR has got widened and viewed as a function that transcended both the journalistic publicity and persuasive communication campaign traditions. Companies started using two – way Asymmetrical method wherein focus was to win public confidence, continuous and planned programme using institutional advertising. The company went directly to the public and feedback of public was adjusted as per organizational interest.

The 1980s and 1990s brought a significant change in PR tactics and approaches. Involvement of external and internal stakeholders, competitions, the PR function has become more dynamic. PR geared not only to persuade public but establish a mutual understanding, compromise and creating win-win situations for organisations and their affected publics and stakeholders. This model of mutual understanding is considered as two –way symmetrical method.



Public Relations in India:-


The India Economy Reform in 1991 opened the door of LPG i.e. Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization. That was the period when PR got its rightful place in India. The emergence of multi-national corporations in the early 1990s, an increase of foreign direct investment and the deregulation of industries, has made market competitive and businesses felt to build their reputation. Those who were new entrants, keen to create their identity and image and those who have been existing long, started focusing to build their repute. This led to the beginning of PR and advertising agencies in the country.

PR in India – The Pre- Independence Period:-

The growth of PR as a profession in India is a very debatable topic. Many scholars have analyzed the historical evolution and growth of PR in India from the varied perspective for instance:-

J.M. Kaul chronicles four stages of historical evolution of PR – Early Stage, The stage of Conscious PR; the third stage of PR and finally professionalism in PR.

Another author Rahul Jain, in his paper ‘PR Landscape’ published by ‘Global Alliance for PR and Communication Management’ for information only categorized PR in 3 broad phases – propaganda, publicity and public information. During the struggle of the freedom movement, the political leaders used the different forums to disseminate information and appeal to common masses to participate in the freedom movement. Mass Media especially newspapers played a great role in creating national enthusiasm among Indians. The British Government in 1921 established a Central Publicity Board to function as a bridge between government and the media. The nomenclature of Central Publicity Board got changed in 1923 as the Directorate of Public Instruction and in 1939, it became the Directorate of Information and Broadcasting.

It is believed that Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) opened their public relations department in 1943 in Bombay (now in Mumbai). It also started a monthly publication next year for employee communication.

Some also believe that systematic function of PR started with the Indian Railways. The reason for building the railways, carrying raw materials from one part of the country to another seems to be a riskier affair, therefore, they started using promotional messages for passengers inside the train to recover the cost.

PR in India – Post Independence:-

India opted for mixed economy model post-independence. The government gave lots of preference to Public sector organization. This led to the start of Industrial Policy Resolution of 1948 and followed by Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956.

The Government implemented policies based on import substitution industrialization and advocated a mixed economy where the government-controlled public sector was expected to co-exist with the private sector.

A decision at the top government level was taken around that time that all the central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) that now number about 250 would have a public relations department headed by a professional. It was also conveyed to the public sector chiefs that for informing and motivating the employees, every public sector undertaking under the Central government would bring out a house journal for employee communication.

When we look at the media scene in India from its Independence time until the 70s when many public sector companies were being set up, the television and radio were under the government control. Now with more than 350 news channels in the private sector also, Doordarshan competes with them but at the same time reflects government’s perspective rather than being an independent news broadcaster. All India Radio still has the monopoly on the news. The print media has always been independent and vibrant and continues to be so. Efforts at gagging the print media from time to time have not really succeeded.

Professionalism in PR:-

The establishment of Public Relations Society of India (PRSI) in the 1970s gave a huge impetus to the public relations industry. As we mentioned in the introduction that reform in the Indian economy in the 1990s gave the entrance to many MNCs to come in India which led companies to focus on their reputation and building a positive image. That was the time when many PR and advertising companies started getting set up to help companies to hang of the situation, finding the strategy to deal with difficult times, and responding to criticism from adversary groups etc.

Current State of PR in India:-

Public relation is a thriving profession in India. There are hundreds of large and small PR consultancies in the country, employing thousands of practitioners. Most companies in private sector and almost all companies in the public sector have public relations departments.   According to a survey conducted by the Associated Chamber of commerce and Industry in India (Assocham, 2012), the PR industry in India is growing at an annual rate of 32 percent. Many believe the definition of traditional PR has undergone a change. PR in its new avatar not just encompasses media relations and employee communication, but is used increasingly for strategic communication, brand building, customer relations, and crisis management. From an executive function, PR is now becoming a part of the high-level management job touching upon the core values of an organization. PR in India is fast emerging as an institution especially with its growing acceptance as a skilled and specialized profession.

Reasons for Emerging International Public Relations:-


IPR is undergoing major changes in its purview. In the 1960s, John Hill was the one who conceptualized the first international public relations office. After two decades, international public relations was defined as: – ‘’the planned, and organized effort of a company, institution, or government to establish mutually beneficial relations with the public of other nations. (Wilcox 1989). In the 20th Century, both perceptions and practices relating to international public relations changed dramatically. Newson (2000) explains the term as:-

“The globalization of news media, the unification of the world’s economy and the emergence of multinational companies have helped to expand this area of public relations. International public relations is not today limited businesses because many non-profit organizations and associations are included in its scope.

The reasons for emerging International Public Relations are as follows:-

  1. Integrated and independent economy: – The concept of free trade policy, single market, and fewer investment barriers have connected countries globally. Therefore, the existence of multinational negotiations among nations, GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), the international organizations to monitor an develop international trade and monitory system, World Trade Organizations, International Monetary Fund and World Bank are few entities to represent the trend of the world economy. But, the open door of other countries to enter into foreign markets has also developed lots of complications in economic environment related to employee, clients and political and economic factors as well. This resulted in the organization to consider public relations counselor more seriously. It is imperative for an organization who do business across the sphere because they help an organization, individual, social organization to deal with absentee ownership, handle sensitive matter related with cultures of other peoples, combat ethnic and religious hatred of centuries. Today, the government also employ PR practitioners to win the world support for their foreign policy goals, promote tourism and establish nation’s identity in the world community.
  2. New Communication Technologies:-Today, the world is full of information thanks to the availability of various sources of electronic media and sites at an exponential rate. The internet, satellites, supersonic jet travel gives lots of accessibility to people to get inform and aware. New communication technologies have given lots of benefit to PR professionals too in their work, content, flatten the organizational structure and more connect with the public.

Brian Solis is a PR consultant and avid blogger who offers advice for PR firms eager to tap into social media. Solis emphasizes that social media represents more of a sociological change than a technical one. This generation prizes honesty, engagement, and transparency over anything else. For a company to get its message to an online community, it must join that community. And not as a spectator, but as a passionate participant; a real fan. Utilizing emerging digital platforms yields measurable Marketing PR results, which is the underlying goal for every client.




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