First Pioneers of Public Relations

Some historians regard Ivy Lee as the first real practitioner of public relations, but Edward Bernays, a nephew and student of Sigmund Freud, is generally regarded today as the profession's founder. In the United Kingdom Sir Basil Clarke (1879 - 1947) was a pioneer of public relations.

Ivy Lee (1877 — 1934), considered by some to be the father of modern public relations, has been credited with developing the modern news release (also called a "press release"). He espoused a philosophy consistent with what has sometimes been called the "two-way street" approach to public relations in which PR consists of helping clients listen as well as communicate messages to their publics. In the words of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), "Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other."

Edward Bernays (1891 — 1995) was the profession's first theorist. Bernays drew many of his ideas from Sigmund Freud's theories about the irrational, unconscious motives that shape human behaviour. Bernays authored several books, including Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923), Propaganda (1928), and The Engineering of Consent (1947). He saw public relations as an "applied social science" that uses insights from psychology, sociology, and other disciplines to scientifically manage the relationships between different stakeholders in a given environment.

Another early practitioner was Moss Kendrix (1917-1989). He is the first African-American to acquire a major corporate marketing account with Coca-Cola. Moss Kendrix was a huge influence for minorities in the advertising and public relations field. In 1944, he became the Republic of Liberia's Centennial Celebration Director of Public Relations. Later that year he established his own public relations firm, The Moss Kendrix Organization based out of Washington D.C. In 1953, Kendrix created The National Association of Market Developers at Tennessee State University, which acted as a support group for minorities in the field of public relations. Kendrix continued to work for Coca-Cola till the 1970s.