Public relations introduction
27 Sep

The formation of public relations as a practice will be traced from its earliest indications in the ancient world through two millennia and up to the end of the twentieth century. There are many antecedents of public relations, mainly methods of promotion and disseminating information. It was not until the nineteenth century that the term ‘public relations’ was first used although public relations-like practices (also called proto-public relations) were already evident.
Organised communication practices, recognisable as public relations, were introduced in Germany and the United States in the latter part of the nineteenth century. In the United Kingdom, public relations was noticeable from the mid-1920s onward, primarily in government. Professionalisation in the form of university-level education and practitioner associations appeared after the Second World War. From the 1950s onwards, the practices of public relations as promotion (or marketing PR) and public relations as communication management continued to expand across countries in the Western world, although it was suppressed in the Soviet bloc of Eastern Europe and in China until the early 1990s. By the 1980s, public relations theory and practice were evolving in more sophisticated forms that focused on the formation of mutually beneficial relationships and as a support for organisational reputation. In this and following decades, it expanded internationally and, notably, attracted an increasingly feminised workforce that was educated at university level.
The definitions of public relations as well as the antecedent, the springboard (impetuses for expansion) and the restraints that held it back in some regions of the world. Methods of interpreting the history of public relations will also be considered.