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PR’s Evolution into Activation: How Promotion Transformed to Engagement
By: Bulldog Reporter
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Back in the day—a little more than a century ago—what later became known as public relations had its genesis on Broadway and in Hollywood with the rise of press agents. Characterized as enthusiastic, energetic proponents of plays, movies and actors, these press agents nonetheless were stereotyped as scrappy, fast-talking hawkers (with dubious fashion sense!). The term “flack” was coined after Gene Flack, a notable theater agent of the day. The mission of these individuals was to sell tickets and gain celebrity for the talent they represented. They did so using tactics from the ridiculous to the sublime.

PR as a profession took hold in the early 1900s thanks to pioneers including Edward Bernays, who began to hone his craft while employed in Woodrow Wilson’s administration during World War I. As part of the Committee on Public Information, Bernays (a nephew of Sigmund Freud) was charged with communicating a message of democracy in the U.S. and abroad. Impressed with its effectiveness and convinced that this practice could be used in the private sector during peacetime, he decided to open his own company after leaving government work. His first PR initiative was to rename what had been referred to as “propaganda” during the war to “public relations.” The name change was intended to eliminate any stigma attached to the word based on Germany’s negative reaction to this communications practice during the war.


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About the Author
This article was originally published on Bulldog Reporter. A link to the original post follows the article.

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