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The History of Public Relations

Have you  ever wondered how the pairing of bacon and eggs became the All-American breakfast? Well, we have public relations to thank for the notorious combination.

Years ago, the standard breakfast was light, typically consisting of a roll and a cup of coffee or orange juice. That all changed when ‘The Father of Public Relations,’ Edward Bernays, began working for The Beech-Nut Packing Company. The company’s goal was to increase consumer interest in purchasing bacon. To achieve this goal, Bernays had to think innovatively.

Bernays consulted with his agency’s internal doctor to develop the theory that eating a more nutrient-dense, as well as heavier, breakfast would benefit people’s health. Bernays’ doctor wrote to over 5,000 doctors in hopes that they would support the theory.

As doctors wrote back supporting that a heavier breakfast would indeed be beneficial, Bernays had a story to pitch to media. The newspaper and magazine headlines read ““4,500 physicians urge Americans to eat heavy breakfasts to improve their health.” Bacon sales began to soar. Although Bernays is attributed to using manipulation tactics, his campaigns remain well-known and taught valuable public relations lessons.

Evolution of PR 

Naturally, as time passed and the world changed, PR has evolved. Years ago, PR was more of a traditional style, and so-called “print model,” consisting of sending press releases to journalists in hopes of securing coverage and tracking placements. Hence the old saying that “Advertising is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for.” Today, however, the expansion of the digital world has created a major shift in public relations.

Nowadays, public relations agencies touch almost every aspect of a business’ strategic communications plan. PR pros have adapted to include social media marketing in their core services and have developed ways to integrate the two strategies. Agencies have also had to think of outside-of-the-box ways to cut through the online clutter and drive results. As a result, agencies are now offering the following services:

  • Brand Building
  • Media Training
  • Media Relations
  • Content Creation
  • Crisis Management
  • Strategic Partnerships
  • Awards Programs
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Social Media
  • Influencer Marketing

What Can Public Relations Do for Your Business?

No matter the industry or size of an organization, it relies on its reputation to success. PR pros build and manage those reputations to help companies achieve their overarching business goals. Public relations also helps organizations navigate uncertain times, and if the pandemic taught us anything, it is to be ready for the unexpected. Having a public relations agency that is already integrated with your organization and familiar with its messaging and audiences, allows for prompt and strategic responses to challenges.

The Future of PR

Halfway into 2022, we have a solid idea of which sectors of public relations will be critical in the next couple of years.

  • Authentic Messaging and Content: Now more than ever, trust is vital. Consumers value organizations who convey authenticity. Public relations professionals will play a key role in helping companies remain authentic through their brand story and messaging.
  • Focus on Owned Platforms: Thanks to social media, we are seeing brand messages quickly reaching a wider audience at an astonishing rate. This means that PR pros will need to stay on top of rapidly changing trends and remain nimble enough to quickly pivot strategies. Public relations will include a focus not only on earned media, but leveraging a brand’s owned platforms to impact public opinion.
  • Pivotal Role in Marketing Strategy: There is no doubt the lines between public relations and marketing will continue to get more blurred. Public relations pros will play a vital role in combining PR tactics with other pieces of the marketing puzzle.

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