Public relations (PR) impacts our lives each day. Whether it is reading a magazine, watching television, or browsing the Internet, public relations is present. For those who are unsure of what public relations is, I have an explanation for you. A definition for public relations is a “strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics”, according to the Public Relations Society of America’s website.
One of the most famous names in public relations is Edward Bernays “The Father of Public Relations”. Have you heard the belief that smoking cigarettes will make you slim? Bernays was in charge of creating that popular assumption. Bernays was hired to expand the market of cigarettes to women in 1928. Of course this was at the time when most people did not know how harmful smoking was to human health. He first presented print ads of women using cigarettes as a dieting supplement, which were instantly successful.
After that success, he furthered his scheme to make cigarettes a symbol of discriminatory freedom, making it seem like it is respectable for women to smoke. One of the most famous contributions he is known for is the “Torches of Freedom” for Lucky Strike cigarettes. Bernays coordinated a small group of polished women to march in the New York Easter parade of 1929, while smoking cigarettes, to create a movement. They spread the message that if men can smoke, so can women. Women achieved the right to vote in 1920 so they wanted to celebrate how far they have come in gender equality. The cigarettes were known as torches of freedom. All of Bernays’ publicity helped Lucky Strike cigarette sales to increase due to their new market of women. He helped increase the percentage of women smoking to twenty percent in a decade.
Bernays is a great example of how public relations assists with the relationship between an institution and its public. He is also one of the reasons public relations gained a bit of a bad reputation. Some people think PR practitioners are just dishonest manipulators.
Today, PR is still a great influence on communication to the masses, but the practice is now always assured to be honest communication. The PRSSA website has an official statement on public relations that lists the values of a PR practitioner.
Without public relations, companies, nonprofit organizations, and celebrities would not receive any publicity or gain any support. Everyone would be unaware of all the news and products this world has to offer.