The early years of the twentieth century were a difficult
period for Big Business. Corporate monopolies, the brutal
exploitation of labor, and unscrupulous business practices were the
target of blistering attacks from a muckraking press and an
increasingly resentful public. Corporate giants were no longer able
to operate free from the scrutiny of the masses.The crowd is now
in the saddle," warned Ivy Lee, one of America's first corporate
public relations men. The people now rule. We have substituted for
the divine right of kings, the divine right of the multitude."
Unless corporations developed means for counteracting public
disapproval, he cautioned, their future would be in peril. Lee's
words heralded the dawn of an era in which corporate image
management was to become a paramount feature of American society.
Some corporations, such as AT&T, responded inventively to the
emergency. Others, like Standard Oil of New Jersey (known today as
Exxon), continued to fumble the PR ball for decades. The Age of
Public Relations had begun.In this long-awaited, pathbreaking book,
Stuart Ewen tells the story of the Age unfolding: the social
conditions that brought it about; the ideas that inspired the
strategies of public relations specialists; the growing use of
images as tools of persuasion; and, finally, the ways that the rise
of public relations interacted with the changing dynamics of public
life itself. He takes us on a vivid journey into the thinking of PR
practitionersfrom Edward Bernays to George Gallupexploring some
of the most significant campaigns to mold the public mind, and
revealing disturbing trends that have persisted to the present day.
Using previously confidential sources, and with the aid of dozens
of illustrations from the past hundred years, Ewen sheds unsparing
light on the contours and contradictions of American democracy on
the threshold of a new millennium.