Simply, they are important in across all fields because they establish ethical standards for industry practice.
Prior to WWII publicity bureaus (offices) handled issues between organizations and their publics. Before the era of the muckrakers, businesses operated with a “public be damned” attitude, which meant the public was not even a consideration in relationship to business practices.
At the close of the nineteenth century, public relations bureaus popped up in response to the need for organizations to address negative publicity that came about because of the lack of transparency businesses had with the public and to expose unethical practices. These offices mostly operated as damage control or as tools of propaganda.
A history of PR globally….
As early as the late 1800s, governments and organizations were engaging in public relations around the world. In 1893, the industrial giant Krupp created a news bureau as a part of an effort to publicize its activities.
In Europe…. The British telecommunications company Marconi sent out its first press release in 1910, and almost 14 years later, the public relations agency Editorial Services was founded. Not until a year later would an official job title be created for a public relations post.
In Africa…. Even as far away as Nigeria, the need for organizations to establish relationships was apparent, as the Christian Missionary Society (CMS) issued the Iwe Irohin (News Journal) to publicize information related to the socioeconomic and political activities of Anglican parishioners. Officially Nigeria’s first newspaper, it also publicized news regarding the colonial administration, some foreign affairs, advertisements and public announcements.
…And here in the Americas In the United States, just before the turn of the century, the first public relations department was established by Westinghouse to fight Thomas Edison’s General Electric in 1889. In 1897, public relations efforts between railroad and transportation organizations and their publics became the catalyst for a burgeoning field. By 1900, The Publicity Bureau was established as the first public relations agency.
A few years later, Parker & Lee established its “Declaration of Principles,” which promoted the public’s “right to know.” By WWI, both Presidents Taft and Wilson recognized the need to engage with the press, and the press became an integral part in propagandizing the war.
…And we cannot also forget the inroads that trailblazers Ivy Lee, Edward Bernays, and Pendleton Dudley made, all men who used some form of public relations to influence and engage their publics.
The events of the Depression influenced the public to hold business interests accountable for their actions, forcing corporations to engage in relationships with the public. These bureaus that functioned as publicity offices eventually evolved into agencies that exerted influence over the publics with whom they engaged.
All of these events and all of this history created the platform for the public relations industry in the late 1930s. All at once, all around the world, all of these groups were performing different functions of public relations but operating without any governing bodies.
These governing bodies or associations served to provide industry standards and guidelines for those working in the public relations field. These standards protect you from unethical business practices.
In response to these agencies who functioned independently all with their own set of guidelines, several governing bodies cropped up in response to establishing standards for the industry.
In essence, these organizations have established industry standards that evolved with changing times.
These professional organizations have established standards that dictate the different ways organizations engage with the public, and in some cases, they established ethical codes for engaging in''' “best practices” with the public.
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