The fourth International History of Public Relations Conference, held at BU on June 24-25, attracted papers from 19 countries. Organised by the Institute for Media & Communication Research in The Media School, it covered topics as diverse as the Royal Family’s first PR adviser to PR in Kazakhstan, and publicity for the launch of Gone With The Wind in 1939.
Held at the Executive Business Centre, there were two strong themes: the historiography of public relations and historical aspects of the professionalisation of PR. They symbolised the conference’s development since 2010 from largely descriptive narratives to a more analytic, sometimes critical approach.
The conference welcomed the authors of five new or recent books and witnessed the launch of the first title in Routledge’s New Directions on Public Relations and Communication Research series which has been developed and edited by Dr Kevin Moloney of the Media School. The book, Public Relations and Nation Building: Influencing Israel, was written by Dr Margalit Toledano and Prof David McKie.
Prof Tom Watson gave the keynote presentation about the state of scholarship in public relations history. He called for historians to move away from “comfortable” topics to more critical investigation into the use and abuse of public relations.
The conference dinner was addressed by Bob (Robert S.) Leaf, a pioneers of international public relations in the 1960s to 1980s, when he was the international chairman of the leading public relations consultancy Burson-Marsteller. Mr Leaf recently published a memoir, The Art of Perception. Delegates also attended a “meet the editors” session which featured contributions on research and publishing by the editors of four major academic journals in the field.
Papers and presentations will be published on the conference website, http://historyofpr.com, in the late summer. Planning for the 2014 conference, which will be held at the EBC on July 2-3 next year, will start shortly.