From Public Relations to Person Relation: History of PR from Antiquity to 2017

When we talk about public relations, we immediately associate them with activities related to the promotion of products and services of a company with the goal of creating value.

The report that is established is addressed to several audiences who are able to convey a message, influencing and persuading the recipient to take action, usually identifiable with the purchase.

But is that really all?

When were public relations born and what is their evolution up to the present day?
Origin of public relations

According to James R. Grunig and Scott Cutlip, the public relations have ancient origins, dating from the first Greek, Roman and Egyptian societies.

The Scribe, ancient ghost writer.

The ancestors, ancestral version of the advocates.

Julius Caesar, the first to start a real promotional campaign by sending versions of paper “newsletter” in support of his military achievements.

Public relations in the history of religions

Throughout the period of clandestinity of Christianity, the Evangelists Luca, Matteo, Marco and Giovanni offer us the very first case of segmentation of the public: each writer wrote his own version of the life of Jesus with processes and mechanisms of storytelling Different, aimed at telling the same story under different lights.

The scriptures and public performances of the Gospel contributed the spreading of the message of Jesus, managing to increase the awareness of his figure.

Pope Urban II managed to recruit thousands of volunteers for the Crusades thanks to “press releases” spread throughout Europe through monasteries and dioceses. The Religious brothers had the task of sharing the contents of the encyclical with the population, stimulating the word of mouth.

Martin Luther built the Protestant Reformation by hanging on the door of the church of Wittenberg Castle the list of his 95 theses before a public discussion in the office. Thanks to the invention of the press, recognized in the years of the 95 thesis, Luther was able to divulge his vision to an extremely wide audience.
Public relations during the colonial and slave era

The Spanish conquistadors and English explorers were accustomed to sending letters in mother country describing the lands unknown and conquered, telling of Fountains of youth, entire cities built of gold, fertile land and giant trees. The reality was obviously much less exasperated than how it was painted in their reportage, but was able to achieve the goal through storytelling, managing to get investment.

The Boston tea Party was one of the major pseudo-events in history, a mass meeting organized to shock and satirizzare the tax on tea imposed by the British to Americans marked by ostracism towards the Empire and the demonization of sympathizers of the colonialists. The strategies of mass persuasion used during the American Revolution have a very similar to the current techniques of PR:

  • Festivities or topical themes used as a pretext for propaganda (real time marketing)
  • Sending letters to opinion leaders (influencer marketing)
  • Organizing events
  • Surveys
  • Paid listings in newspapers.
  • Ghost Writing (content marketing)
  • Word of Mouth in the busiest places
  • Door to door.

Public relations in the World Wars

The first, real campaign of propaganda on large scale took place during the World War I, in Germany. The state created an office dedicated to the creation of texts, press releases, books that supported the justice of their cause, encouraging voluntary recruitment, demonizing the enemy and persuading America to remain neutral. The English response was not long in coming: The British government established a structured agency to spread German atrocities and barbarism during the war. France, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Italy followed the wheel, while the United States proceeded as soon as they entered the conflict.

It was only during the Second World War that the term “Propaganda” – coined by Pope Gregory XV in the early seventeenth century – underwent an extremely negative connotation, due to the continual attacks and incitements to hatred of the enemy. In this case, Nazism used the term to establish a ministry dedicated to enlightenment and Propaganda in March 1933, monopolizing the editorial plans of newspapers, using posters, films, books, speakers to persuade the nation to Xenophobia, leveraging the principle of the scapegoat.

The advent of modern PR: the Postwar

In the first post-war period, some pioneers began to baste the very first PR campaigns as we understand them today. Edward Bernays, grandson of Sigmund Freud and known as the father of modern PR, theorized in 1920 the need to put the customer at the center, falling in his shoes and looking at the world from his perspective. Influenced by his uncle’s studies of the subconscious, he promoted cigarette smoke among the ladies as a substitute for sweets, which would have made them fat (Larry Tyre – The Father of Spin – 1999, biography of Edward L. Bernays).

Barneys propaganda yes the beauty of feminine leanness, but granted women a means, a “torch of freedom” against the sexist taboos. The male prejudice against the smokers was very high in the 1920s: those who yielded to tobacco were considered discreditable, while men were approved as gentlemen. As a pretext for greater echo on the campaign, Bernays recalled this concept and gender inequalities by paying smokers to participate in a feminist march to the cry of “Women! Light another flashlight! “. Lucky Strike became the market leader in those years.

During the Second World War, began to form the first PR agencies, the first weekly dedicated and the first theories and best practices.

From Public relations to People relations: the digital age

The Internet has broadened the possibilities of public relations. A bit like the “Content is King” mantra, in Digital PR the Fundamental law is based on People relations. Thanks to the extreme segmentation that allows the medium, the message to be spread is carefully channeled, trying to touch as much as possible a group, a narrow niche, with an apparently personalized mood.

We think of the newsletters that we receive continuously: Our name next to the good morning or in the subject, the Chameleon sites that change color according to our mood, the feed of the social network never equal to that of another, the applications that we download Making our device absolutely personal, cookies that generate remarketing targeted.

After centuries of public relations with messages circulated a bit ‘ random, we are finally in front of a communication almost ad hoc, based on the emotions of people. By narrowing the field we can focus on the real goal, improving the budget allocation and increasing the ROI. A warmer and more humane approach that recognizes people and does not treat them from simple recipients.

From People relations to Person relation: The Influencer marketing – Micro Analysis

The 2017 is the year of the explosion (and recognition) of influencer marketing, according to a study by Traackr and Toprank.

An influencer is a profile recognized as relevant to the brand that can share with its followers small daily actions, thus influencing perception compared to a brand in the mass.

In the field of fashion, lifestyle and beauty, for example, you can easily find profiles with surprising numbers of followers and a rather high engagement rate. But how many of those reactions will correspond to an actual purchase or improvement of brand awareness with respect to the brand?

A practical example of influencer marketing

Emblematic is the case of the blogger lifestyle, accustomed to take photographs of hotel rooms, resorts and nature spectacular and enticing dressed with craftsmanship by accessories and designer clothes. Lifestyle bloggers work to push the structure and/or the brand of clothing with storytelling and post well-indexed.

They are often found in well-tended exotic contexts, showing luxury garments and obtaining interactions that are around 2%, in the average of the category with fanbase more than one million followers, according to the markerly study.

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