Monday, Feb. 6: Public Relations History

According to Meg Lamme and Karen Russell, the major motivations for public relations across time have been:

A. Recruitment: getting new volunteers, new members, new hires, and new students
B. Legitimacy: legitimatizing an organization’s position via status conferral
C. Advocacy: promoting persons, organizations and nations; this is the first value of the PRSA Code of Ethics
D. Agitation: activism both online and offline
E. Profit: generating revenue via the promoting of products, services, and ideas for sale


Edward Bernays (Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know):


A Brief History of Public Relations

Public Relations History (Melanie McNaughton):

Questions and Answers: Put your answers to all of the questions below in the “Leave a Reply” section.

a. What is propaganda? Is public relations propaganda?

b. Creativity alert: How would P. T. Barnum use social media (especially given this news)? Provide some specific examples.

c. Asymmetrical public relations is much more common in everyday practice than symmetrical public relations. Does that mean most of the field is inherently unethical? Why or why not?




  1. a.) Propaganda is biased information used to promote a certain point of view. I don’t think public relations is propaganda, but I think propaganda definitely falls under the same umbrella as public relations.
    b.) P.T. Barnum would be all about clickbait. He’d be like “Roly Polies Aren’t Actually Bugs!?” and it’d be a 17 click long slideshow about how they’re really crustaceans. His “articles” like this would be really popular on Facebook.
    c.) I wouldn’t say most of the field is unethical. Asymmetrical public relations has the potential to be unethical, but as long as blatant lies are not being used I think it’s more persuasive than unethical.

  2. 1a) According to Bernays, Progaganda is, “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”
    1b) Yes, public relations is a form of propaganda.

    2) Thanks to sites like LinkdIn, Barnum’s network, which included folks like Queen Victoria, would have positively exploded. He would have been the social media king. His legendary promotional skills would have gone global; today he could market Tom Thumb to the entire world. Jenny Lind’s videos would have gone viral immediately. Circuses are cheap entertainment, and would fir into almost any budget, making it a global pastime.

    3) Because asymmetric public relations prevails in the private sector does not mean most of the field is necessarily unethical, given that we are operating in a capitalist system that focuses amost solely maximizing shareholder value and remains the tactic of choice for most companies. However, I do feel compelled to point out that there is a growing, unmistakeable movement to use the two-way symmetrical model as almost a mediator as opposed to promoter to build understanding between the public and an organization; Barnum might look at it as you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

  3. A) Propaganda is information (usually misleading or presented in a biased manner) that promotes a particular political cause or stance. Propaganda is an attempt to make someone or some organization believe they act in a certain manner desired by said person or organization. Public relations, in turn, is somewhat a form of propaganda because its main goal is to help solidify relationships between the public and that organization.

    B) Barnum said himself, “I am a showman by profession.” He would do what he must to make money. He was known for drawing a crowd and gaining attention, and this was all before social media came into existence. If P. T. Barnum had social media, he would take advantage of the platform and draw attention to himself by giving people what they want. He said himself this is “the noblest art.” Barnum would post photos on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook people want to see with information they would be drawn to or information that would arouse their curiosity (maybe even interesting links they could click on to draw them in closer to his money making scheme, for lack of better word). Barnum would build his social media platform to appeal to the public, but little would the public know, its all apart of him building rapport with his audience.

    C) I wouldn’t say that asymmetrical public relations causes the field to be inherently unethical. There could be an underlying slyness in motives, misleading information proposed, etc., however I think it goes back to efficiency and growing a business or corporation. I don’t condone lying, but I don’t see anything wrong with persuasion or making something seem more appealing. It is the publics responsibility to do their research on a company or corporation before getting involved and asking all questions necessary for every bit of information to be clear.

  4. 1.Propaganda is information that is biased or misleading, it is used to promote a political cause or point of view. Public relations can be similar to propaganda.
    2. P. T. Barnum could have used social media to show his creative artwork on the internet. His art would have reached far more people through social media.
    3. Some of the field could be considered unethical because asymmetrical public relations does not focus on honesty. Asymmetrical is more common so this could result in a mostly unethical field.

  5. 1. What is propaganda? Is Public Relations propaganda?
    A) It is the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc, in support of a cause. It is the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses it is an important element in democratic society.
    B) It is sort of a branch of propaganda. They both seek to outline perceptions and sway public opinion, both use mass media, audiences directed towards a specific audience, and the end result is to get people to do what you want them to do. However, the difference is propaganda has the reputation for using lies, smears, and rhetoric to influence the publics’ attitudes towards certain issues. Public relations rely on the truth, facts, and at times emotions to influence individuals.

    2. How would P.T. Barnum use social media? Provide examples.
    A) Researching P.T. Barnum I can see that he is a really interesting guy. He was a politician, businessman, writer, and showman. His curiosity allowed him to venture into a variety of professions. I think that if Barnum had social media it would be very interesting to follow. I feel that his Facebook would be filled with political posts, as well as interesting articles in reference to odd things. I believe that his Instagram would be filled with videos and pictures of him and his celebrity crew. I feel like he would be really creative in addressing social and political issues.

    3. Asymmetrical public relations is much more common in everyday practice than symmetrical public relations. Does that mean most of the field is inherently unethical? Why or why not?
    A) Though asymmetrical public relations are more common, it does not mean that symmetrical public relations is unethical. Both of these types of public relations are used for different reasons. For example, two way asymmetrical public relations employs science methods to develop, short-term attitude change incorporates feedback from target audience and publics. It’s publics come around to its way of thinking rather changing the organization, policies or its views. The symmetrical public relation relies on honest, mutual give-take rather than one-way persuasion. It focuses on mutual respect and efforts to achieve mutual understanding, emphasizes negotiation and willingness to adapt.

  6. A) One definition of propaganda is that it is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. It’s a form of manipulation to make a person or group of people act a certain way or believe a certain thing. Public relations is a form of propaganda in a way, because it could be considered a bridge between the public and the organization using propaganda as a strategy.
    B) Barnum was the type of man who was in whatever he could be for money, but also to see what he could convince his audience of. Many people believe that he coined the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” but he never called his audience “suckers”. He only saw them as willing to participate in his “lighthearted pranks and hoaxes.” Barnum was someone who liked to push the limits, so if he were to use social media platforms today, he would create content that had never been seen before, to grab the attention and curiosity of his audience. Anything that is new or exciting, and maybe even a little creepy is what would draw in his crowd. He would advertise whatever upcoming event that he had planned, and maybe even interact with his audience on social media to make them even more attracted to him.
    C) I don’t believe that asymmetric public relations is unethical, because it’s up to the public to do their research on companies no matter what, so they technically have no right to feel duped in any way. Asymmetric public relations is definitely slyer than symmetric, but it can definitely be more efficient for the company to get their way, since that is usually the main goal.

  7. Question 1
    Answer: Propaganda is information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or a publicize political cause or point of view. I think public relations is some sort of propaganda because we get information out to the public. Public relations jobs are to build relationships for organizations and their publications and that is what propaganda does in a way.

    Question 2
    Answer: P.T. Barnum would use the mess out of those selling sites like Craigslist and OfferUp. What would be best for Barnum is Facebook and Instagram. I see him doing those because people like to see a visual of your work or what ever you are selling and those are the two social media sites that makes it easy to see what you are looking for. Barnum being a “showman” I am positive he would have made his way to all the social media sites to sale things.

    Question 3
    Answer: Asymmetrical public relations is unethical because I do believe people should be honest when selling things. There will always be something that goes wrong when lying to your audience about a particular product definitely medical ones.

  8. Ryan Romero

    1) Propaganda is the use of presenting information to inspire patriotism in order to gain a helpful boost to a nation, group, and/or organization.

    Public Relations is not propaganda as public relations does not give lies that are harmful to other people. It helps to bring a profit and support to a organization by maintaining good publicity that is not patriotic.

    2)Barnum is a different kind of person, based on my standards. He would be that one guy on Facebook that would continuously post articles that contained his oddities. However, his reputation would, as other people in this blog said, would explode. People would want to spend their time and money to see his artwork. The Social media would make him a sensation.

    3)I do not think that it is unethical to use asymmetric public relations as the people needs to do their own research about the facts over a topic. They have the right to be believe if something is not right. Asystemical is also a benefit to certain firms and companies to allow others to do their work of maintaining good public relations.

  9. 1. Propaganda is info spread out to make others believe it or become interested in it. Public relations can be a form of propaganda because , putting out information for the public is one of many things that involve public relations
    2.Barnum was an intelligent man who just wanted his articles to be read, Barnum would be great on facebook or even instagram, he liked to be in the spot light and draw attention and those are the fastest ways to do so
    3. Asymmetric public relations is not unethical to public relations because it is still a form of public relations, and nothing involving pr is unethical unless someone makes it personal to be unethical, even though it is considered scientific persuasion, it is just persuasion. Every company tries to persuade others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s