Mass Media in a Free Society
22 July 2011
The Dawn of Public Relations
Public Relations, what exactly is public relations? You hear so many people use that phrase or sometimes they shorten it up to just PR. Public Relations is simply defined by the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by an organization or a famous person. The brains behind all of this can simply be named as Ivy Lee. Many historians credit Lee with being the originator of modern crisis communications. While Ivy Lee had competitors on who takes the founder of Public Relations, Ivy Lee came on top and had a successful life. Throughout this essay you can see the steps that Ivy Lee had taken to live up to the wonderful name as founder of Public Relations.
Ivy Lee was by Cedartown, Georgia on July 16, 1877 as the son of a Methodist minister, James Wideman Lee. His father also founded an important family in Atlanta. Lee got the chance to studied at Emory College. While he was at Emory College he soon transferred to Princeton then graduated from there. After graduation he scored a job as a newspaper reporter and stringer. He was a journalist at many places in New York including: the New York American, the New York Times, and the New York World. He got his first job came upon him in 1903 as a publicity manager for the Citizens’ Union. Soon after that he wrote a book called the Best Administration New York City Ever had. After that chapter in his life, he then took a job with the Democratic National Committee. Lee married Cornelia Bartlett Bigalow in 1901. They had three children: Alice Lee, James Wideman Lee II, and Ivy Lee, Jr.
In 1905 is when things really started changing for Ivy Lee. Ivy Lee scored his third Public Relations firm with George Parker in 1905. This firm established the name “Parker and Lee”. The new company bragged of “Accuracy, Authenticity, and Interest.” They first met while working in the Democratic Party headquarters, then soon became partners. After close to four years of The Parker and Lee firm, Lee who was the junior partner became a top role model in public relations. Lee turned his thoughts and ideas into the Declaration of Principles in 1906. During the same time an accident accrued with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Lee then issued the very first press release. During this press release he convinced the company to open handily spill out information to the press and journalist before it was told anywhere else. In 1912, after this press release he was hired full time at the Pennsylvania Railroad. This was considered to be the first full time executive level position for the public relations field.
At a time when other business man were trying to explain their clients’ activities in ways that were understandable to the public, Lee was realizing some things just couldn’t be explained in a harsh yet honest way. When the Rockefeller family let Lee work for his family, John D. Rockefeller himself had a long and well known reputation that he had built up as a robber baron because he, himself was a robber baron. He and several other well named business man had achieved a great life through success and being wealthy by being rude, not caring, profit-driven businessmen whose actions were often as harsh, arrogant, and uncaring as they were as a person. Their actions could be backed up by there words, but much of it was to far gone for any hope. The public would never have approved of such behavior, especially at times these actions took place. Lee came up with an idea that argued the robber barons’ thoughts and views of the public. Lee ended changing Rockefeller’s behavior, or what it was seen as the company’s horrid behavior. Many conclude that horrid behavior could have been the best public relations ever seen.
First Rockefeller fought to keep his thoughts and views, but Lee’s persistence but him down. At this point, instead of taking over and eliminating Rockefeller, Lee started writing press releases and public statements and arranging special appearances for Rockefeller. Lee soon became Rockefeller’s advisor on public relations. Lee held the company to new advantages of a broad range of business decisions and management policy that was all included by the following: redress workers’ grievances, the selection of new plant sites, setting employee wages and working conditions, and negotiating contracts with suppliers and vendors.
As looking further into Ivy Lee’s life there can be many questions and many people would not agree with his journey. He had a different outlook on the chain of command and many people did not agree with how he moved up or how he pursued public relations. Lee was always concerned about moving forward, while he always tried to have the public’s thought in mind, he consequently always did what he thought was best and what looked appealing to his eye. The insert from Ivy Lee’s Declaration of Principles states clearly how he presented himself, “In brief, our plan is frankly, and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public institutions, to supply the press and public of the United States prompt and accurate information concerning subjects which it is of value and interest to the public to know about.” As to the point as Lee was, many people could wonder why there was such a ruckus about his views. Many didn’t believe he was out of line, but many did not agree with Ivy Lee.
Whatever you call his approach, Lee had clearly transformed Rockefeller’s public image from that of an uncaring and rude portrait to a warm and caring employer and incredibly generous. As Lee had to die at an early age of 57 due to a brain tumor, to the point but incredible transformations of public relations will never be forgotten. Lee helped shape what public relations is today and brought it to be a great career that is taking over. Many may see his views as a bunch of ruckus, but that ruckus is making many people have a great life with a wonderful job!
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Daguerreotype. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 18 July 2011
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Turney, Michael. Nku.edu. http://www.nku.edu/~turney/prclass/readings/3eras2x.html
Webster. Dictionary.com. http://www.dictonary.com