Archive for October 2007

The History of Public Relations special issue in the Journal of Communication Management is now online. Go to this posting, History of Public Relations – JCOM Special Issue Preview – to read all about it and get the link to the articles.


I’ve been asked by one of the leading public relations academic journals as to whether I would guest edit an edition on the history of public relations. This is an emerging area of public relations scholarship and so I’m making what we is a “Call before the Call for Papers” to test the level of interest.

In the UK, Jacquie L’Etang has written a pathfinding history of the discipline and a Social History of PR was written in the US in the mid-1990s. As well, there are occasional articles in Public Relations Review. In most general public relations texts, there is a chapter or section on history of public relations, which reaches back to ancient times to show that empires and religions used strategies and tactics, mainly events, to communicate and engage support. This is followed by a gallop over the centuries until the end of the 19th century. In general, the beginning of PR as a defined discipline is either set at the turn of the 20th century or after the first world war. My view is that there was developed practice in what we now call public relations a long time before the supposed start date. It’s a rich and exciting topic to explore with the potential for journal articles, books of readings and histories.

In thinking about the journal special edition, Here is an initial list of topics:

– Public relations in history, before it became a named or defined discipline

– Archival sources for the history of public relations

– The evolution of public relations in nations or in parts of government or industry

– Key personalities or events that shaped the formation of public relations as a discipline

– Key books or articles that have influenced public relations

– The evolution of public relations theory over time

– Influences on public relations practice, such as in government, industry and consultancy

– The formation of industry and professional bodies and their impact, over time, on public relations practice and education

– The evolution of public relations education, training and continuing professional education

– How technology has shaped public relations practice and theory

These are just some initial thoughts and I would welcome feedback on these as well as suggestions of other themes. My own interest has been sparked by reading over many years and recent research into the application of sophisticated public relations strategy and tactics in 10th century England (before William the Conqueror arrived in 1066). My paper on the formation of the cult of St Swithun will appear shortly in the Winter 2007 edition of Public Relations Review.

Please contact me via comments on this blog or directly to


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Tom Watson

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