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Research Conversations The Institute for Public Relations (IPR) is an independent nonprofit foundation dedicated to the science beneath the art of public relations™ focusing on research that matters to the practice.
Harold Burson and the Social Science of Public Relations
Harold Burson, a great friend of the Institute for Public Relations who has served on the Board, received our highest honor and delivered some of the most memorable speeches in our history, writes a blog. I had fun last weekend going through some of his musings, among them, thoughts on public relations defined. There is much to like in Harold’s writing, but I particularly landed on this:
“Even though not offered as a commercial service until the first year of the 20th Century, public relations has, mostly unknowingly, been practiced from the time humans began interacting with one another. But its basic principles have been recognized through the ages. The Ten Commandments were chiseled in stone; the broad boulevards of ancient Rome were built not to accommodate a heavy stream of traffic but to demonstrate the power and grandeur of the Roman Empire; Martin Luther’s 95 theses were nailed to the cathedral door, not tacked on the bulletin board; the horrible Boston massacre was the term used to describe the killing of five patriots at a time when American colonists were seeking independence from England.
“Public relations is a process that impacts public opinion. Its objective is to motivate individuals or groups to take a specific action. Like buying a certain brand of toothpaste or automobile; voting for a specific candidate; supporting one side or the other of a political issue; signing up with one cable provider over another. As such, public relations is an applied social science that draws on several social sciences, among them psychology, cultural anthropology, sociology, political science, economics, geography. Actually, one could more accurately describe public relations as a maturing applied social science. It is all too slowly developing theories and a body of knowledge, mainly case histories, that can bring about greater discipline, uniformity and predictability in delivering our services.”
Thank you, Harold.
Frank Ovaitt is President and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations.