History of Public Relations – JCOM Special Issue preview

Posted on: October 14, 2008

The History of Public Relations Special Issue of the Journal of Communication Management was flagged up on DummySpit back in October 21 last year. It has been this blog’s single most visited posting and shows the great interest in this subject.


The History of Public Relations Special Issue will be formally published by Emerald as Journal of Communication Management volume 12 issue 4 in late November but you can go online to read abstracts and, if you are a subscriber through a university library or personally, the articles can be read in their EarlyCite form.


The Special Issue has been a rewarding activity. It has met a pent-up demand by scholars for an opportunity to publish research collectively and has helped create a community of scholars who will increasingly co-operate and discuss their research. Here is a pen picture of the articles:


Public relations historical scholarship has been largely pioneered by researchers in the United States, with the notable exception of Jacquie L’Etang in the United Kingdom. Amongst the outcomes of this Special Edition has been a reinforcement of the depth of US scholarship in articles by Karla Gower, Timothy Penning and Patricia Curtin, which also challenge the “great man” model that for so long has posited Ivy Lee and Edwards Bernays as being responsible for evolution of public relations as a practice.


Historians will benefit from Jacquie L’Etang’s conceptual paper on Writing PR History which is based on her experiences and the theoretical and methodological challenges she has faced. Robin Croft, Trevor Hartland and Heather Skinner look back in history to 10th Century and the start of the planned manipulation of the Glastonbury myths in creating the national brand of England and of Englishness. Natalia Rodriguez Salcedo brings to light the history of public relations in Spain from the late 19th Century onwards. Tony Jaques from Australia spotlights the role of Howard Chase in the creation of ‘Issue Management’ and its adoption as part of contemporary practice.


This Special Issue also plays its part in supporting the community of public relations historians by assisting the launch of, a clearing house for scholars, which is funded by the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama. The wiki is introduced by Margot Lamme and Jennifer Land.


But not all papers could be included in this Special Issue. Articles by Alexander Laskin on the evolution of models of public relations, Suzanne Horsley on women in North American PR and Klement Podnar and Ursa Golob’s tracking of the development of public relations theory and practice through the pages of Public Opinion Quarterly will follow in forthcoming editions of JCOM.


The Special Issue is available at, click Table of Contents, and click issue 12.4.  Everyone can see abstracts and subscribers can see full EarlyCite content of full articles.  If you want subscription information or a free online trial, contact the Journal’s publisher Martyn Lawrence by email at


6 Responses to "History of Public Relations – JCOM Special Issue preview"

[…] 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 […]

[…] 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 […]

Hi Tom, I just examined the TOC and your blog post and I’m really excited to see the issue when it comes out. I commend you for your diligent work and fine selection of pieces.

I am thoroughly convinced that in the US we need to travel roads that take us beyond Bernays and Lee, though I realize that the secrecy of corporate archives makes it difficult. Access is certainly a major challenge. When Tom Heinrich and I were looking at Kimberly-Clark for our book on that company, we were given special access to the records, but still had to keep some records out, based on trade secrets…and this was documents from the 1960s!

I’m also convinced that a better understanding of PR’s history may help scholars move beyond the pie-in-the-sky theoretical issues addressed by the Excellence theory. If PR history becomes a vibrant field, then perhaps more scholars will work there, thus giving them a path to tenure that doesn’t include reworking Grunig’s work.

Thanks again for editing this important contribution to PR scholarship.

Bob: Thanks for the kind comments. It was a pleasure to edit this edition and I’m looking forward to more research, debate and articles. TOM

I, too, am delighted to see that PR history is being foregrounded in 2010 via the conference in Bournemouth. I started in PR in 1972 when, in South Africa, there were only 3 universities that offered it as a subject within the discipline of Communication studies. Now it’s one of the most popular courses at universities (under Humanities and Commerce). However, the focus is on Integrated Marketing Communication and the History of PR has somehow been neglected. Where it is covered it is done so from an American and british perspective. What I would like to do is look at the history of South African PR, with focus on the Nationalist government’s use of PR (propaganda) to serve their own ideological agenda.
Any thoughts or suggestions?? Would PR people outside of SA be at all interested??

Dee – Thanks for your enthusiastic response. Topics for the conference are very wide and look at all types of national experiences of public relations from an historical perspective.

Lots of interest in the conference, too, which will be held at Bournemouth University on July 8-9, 2010.

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