Public Relations Company

Public Relations Company  
From the Chairman: The history of PR in Australia

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DRPR Drumbeat

Most people are surprised when I tell them that public relations started in Australia in the mid 1940s. Indeed, this year the professional body of the industry, the Public Relations Institute of Australia, is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its founding.

The need for a written history of PR in this country is something that I have been agitating with my fellow practitioners over a number of years at industry functions. My deep concern is that the surviving first generation of PR people from the 1940s are now in their 80s and their irreplaceable memories, anecdotes and records are being lost forever.

Therefore, I'm also pleased to report that the first stage of a research project to produce a historical and social analysis of public relations in Australia has received funding from the University of Technology Sydney.

Jim Macnamara

The research project will be jointly undertaken by Professor Jim Macnamara, who joined the UTS as Professor of Public Communication after a 30-year career in journalism, public relations practice and media research, and Dr Robert Crawford, a media historian who is also the author of But Wait, There's More: A History of Australia's Advertising Industry 1900-2000 published by Melbourne University Press in 2008.

In addition, Jim and Robert will be cooperating with Officer of the College of Fellows of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA), Mike Watson, who is undertaking a PhD through the University of South Australia researching the history of public relations practice in Australia.

Jim Macnamara says the project will involve more than a chronological history of the development of public relations in Australia.

"We will be conducting a historical and social analysis that will look not only at important industry events and developments, but the role and use of public relations in national, political, commercial, social and cultural affairs. We want to explore not only how public relations developed, but how it is embedded in the political, economic and social fabric of contemporary society. This will involve case studies of public relations use in nation-building, business, organisations and the community from the late 19th century through to 2010," said Jim.

I eagerly look forward to the books release.

- Dennis Rutzou