PR — A science

If I could work in any era of PR history, I would choose the 1920’s when PR was in it’s very ripe stage.  In this time period lived one of the first and most influential writers in public relations,  a man named Edward Bernays.   Bernays was the double-nephew of Sigmund Freud (born to Freud’s sister and Freud’s wife’s brother).

Bernays view of Public Relations and career was based off a dictionary definition that said engineering is the “art or science of making practical application of the knowledge of pure sciences, such as physics, chemistry, biology, etc.

Bernays was prominent at the same time of the women’s liberation movement.  In 1929, Bernays  was working for American Tobacco, and with his interest in psychoanalysis, he payed a large sum of money to consult with psychoanalyst A.A. Brill who revealed to him that a cigarette represents the penis, and thus smoking was a form of male domination. Likewise, a woman’s smoking could be seen, therefore, as a gesture of successful defiance and self-determination.  He used this analysis to quote the term “Torches of Freedom”.  Women began to accept this fallacy and soon if you didn’t believe in women being able to smoke, then you didn’t believe in liberty.

The reason I like this time period for public relations is because this was I think the beginning to work smarter with the public.  Not necessarily for the purpose of manipulation or be deceiving to the masses like he did, but for the purpose of understanding the public on a much deeper level and being able to communicate things to people because you understand more about them…why people do the things they do. Bernays was able to understand people in this way on a much deeper level.  I love the fact that he sought to understand and work with the public through science.


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