Making public relations history

“Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it”, according to Oscar Wilde. Those of us assembling in Bournemouth for the third International History of Public Relations Conference can debate this view after two days of illuminating presentations on the history of our field. We should also remember another Wilde quote: “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught”.

I like to think that we are combining these two perspectives as the real virtue of the conference for me is the sharing of views – so I see the conference as invaluable in learning about history from informed, intelligent people.  I’ve certainly learned a lot from attending the past two conferences, as well as researching my papers: The Origins of Careers in Public Relations (which was subsequently published in Public Relations Review) and Life on Mars: Career Experiences of women in British public relations (1970-1989) – which I present this year.

The original founder of PR Conversations, Toni Muzi Falconi is presenting a paper on The rise and fall of Berlusconi’s cuckoo model of public relations 1992-2011.  Other PRC friends, such as Richard Bailey, Fraser Likely and Jean Valin are also presenting at the conference.  Check out the conference schedule and the social media information detailed below (as well as via own Twitter account: @Greenbanana) for further information on this fascinating event in the PR calendar.

Public relations history, formerly seen on the margins of business and journalism history conferences and journals, has had its own, ever-more successful conference since 2010. The third International History of Public Relations Conference, to be held at Bournemouth University in England on July 11-12, is attracting an increasing number of papers and speakers from around the world.  This year papers were shortlisted on historical developments of public relations in countries as diverse as Taiwan, Brazil, Australia, Finland, UAE and Japan.  There are also papers looking at history itself, most decades of the 20th century and different contexts of practice.

Professor Tom Watson of Bournemouth University, who chairs and organises the conference, says the history of public relations field burst forth once the conference was announced: “There was a pent-up demand for this field of research to have its own event. Although we were worried that it may quickly evaporate, the evidence of the increasing quality of papers, the number of refereed publications, and organisation of national and regional symposia shows that it is here to stay.”

The conference is promoted by its own website: and extensive use of social media with a Twitter hashtag of #ihprc and account @historyofpr to follow.  There is also a 1000-strong History of Public Relations LinkedIn group and the International History of Public Relations Conference group on Facebook.

The dates for the 2013 IHPRC conference have already been announced and it would be great to have even more papers submitted – particularly those reflecting PR history from a practitioner perspective next year.  Personally, I’d like to hear more histories of PR within particular organizational or sector contexts as well as historical investigation of particular practices and reflection on theoretical models and their development.

If you are going to be in Bournemouth, please say hello or join us via social media throughout the event.  There will be a follow-up post here after the conference as well.

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