AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Public relations developed more or less simultaneously in Europe and the United States during the 19th century. In Europe - and more specifically in Germany - Carl Hundhausen was the first to use the term PR with its present-day meaning in 1937 when he wrote an article on "Public Relations" (cf. Flieger & Ronneberger, 1993). The phenomenon of PR had in fact been discussed much earlier, but more in terms of social criticism within the European tradition. The main topic of scientific analysis was the relationship between the press and PR, especially the influence of PR and/or press of offices on the media and newspaper reporting. Literature written in German often mentions Wuttke (1866), Kellen (1908) and Max Weber (1910) as proof that PR was a subject of scientific debate at an early stage. Critical discussion on PR in Europe continued between the wars and reached its peak at the Seventh German Sociology Conference held in Berlin in 1930, which was also concerned with the topic of the press and public opinion (cf. Kunczik, 1994, p. 232).
After the Second World War, Hundhausen and Oeckel (1950-1974) continued to encourage discussion on PR as we know it today, developing the concept further in both theoretical and practical terms. For this reason, they are considered to be the fathers of German PR (cf. Flieger & Ronneberger, 1993). Initially, attempts were made to Germanize the designation PR and the weekly magazine 'Die Zeit' even announced a competition to this end in February 1951. Although 1522 entries were submitted, the first prize was not awarded as not one of the suggestions was really satisfactory. This is still true today. Although the German translation "Offentlichkeitsarbeit" has managed to assert itself since, many PR experts are not happy with it. For this reason, the American term "Public Relations", or its abbreviation "PR", is used in German-speaking countries of Europe.
The fact that the American designation was adopted in Europe does not mean that European PR developments are directly linked to the history of PR in the United States. The following names are often mentioned in literature on the history of PR in the United States: O.P. Hoyt (1827), Hugh Smith (1842), Dorman B. Eaton (1882) (cf. Newsom et al., 1989). Even though the first PR agencies were founded in the United States at the turn of the century (professionalization of PR), in particular by Ivy L. Lee and Edward L. Bernays, and even though many American ideas and approaches subsequently crossed the Atlantic to Europe, PR theory and practice in Europe and the United States have largely developed independently of each other. Indeed, the historical references given here show that there is a European, and even a German, tradition of practical and theoretical PR.
As far as scientific discussion on PR is concerned, critical analysis in Europe was even diametrically opposed to communication science in the United States, as is clearly illustrated in Robert K. Merton's comparison between European and American research on mass communication (cf. Kunczik, 1994, p. 234). While Europeans were more interested in the "whys and wherefors" at the time, Americans were looking at the effects of PR, influenced by the requirements of commissioned research.
Manfred Ruhl and Franz Ronneberger, two important German PR theorists today, are currently trying to answer the question "Is there a Europeanness to PR", illustrating how much PR - as a special form of public communication - is dependent on specific social conditions, in our case on a bourgeois European society (cf. Ruhl, 1994, p. 171).
The development of PR theory in the United States and Europe is characterized by ideas traveling in both directions, with Americans influencing Europeans much more than vice versa in the past and present. In other words, theoretical and practical elements were devised by Americans (especially by Bernays), taken up by European authors, especially Germans such as Hundhausen, Oeckel and Ronneberger, and further developed in their own right in a European context.
In certain specific fields, however, the development of PR theory was …