PR Pros Miss Out When They Skip the Profession’s Rich and Diverse History

Jared Meade, Principal, Rayne Strategy Group

Theodore Roosevelt said, “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” This maxim has been somewhat lost in the education and practice of PR.

Four years ago, the Museum of Public Relations and the American Educators of Journalism and Mass Communications surveyed PR professors to find out how much of their curriculum was spent on history. Professors said only 2 percent of the semester was spent on history-related topics.

Even the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) exam includes just a few PR history questions in a section with communication models and theories. The section makes up only 8 percent of the exam.

Too many professors and practitioners don’t see how the history of PR “has relevance to the practice today,” says Shelley Spector, founder of the Museum of Public Relations. “The chief reason they find so little value in it is because they haven’t studied it.”

Indeed, PR history is a treasure trove of case studies, insights and big ideas that should inform how we work today.

For instance, Edward Bernays, the father of PR and a relative of Sigmund Freud, had a deep understanding of psychology and other disciplines that informed his work. PR is more than working with the media, practitioners must understand behavioral economics, business administration and a host of other disciplines to find success.

Sharing insights like these is the Museum of PR’s main mission.

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