Ten years in the making, PR! A SOCIAL HISTORY OF SPIN (Basic Books, December 1996) is the eagerly awaited history of public relations by one of the most eminent critics and historians of American consumer culture.
According to Stuart Ewen, we live in an age of "virtual factuality," an Age of Public Relations in which the construction of "reality" has become a diagnostic feature of American life. Examining the evolution of public relations and the relentless filtration of our mental environment, he asks the bedeviling question: "Is there any reality anymore, save the reality of public relations?" This question, and EwenÕs meticulously researched examination of its long-term implications for American society, stand at the heart of this urgent and thought-provoking book.
PR! presents a gripping picture of the forces and ideas that shaped and influenced the growth of public relations in the twentieth century. In eloquent strokes, Ewen shows how the craft of PR has been employed to steer the "public mind" and has, in the process, distorted the meaning of American democracy.
The book opens its tale during the period when muckraking journalism inflamed a growing public outrage against the voracious consolidation of corporate wealth. Big business did not fare well against the blistering attacks, and in the crucible of these times corporate public relations was born.
PR! presents collective biography of public relations practitioners over the course of a century. In its irresistible saga, the book illuminates the strategies of the journalists, social scientists and image-makers who-in their lives and in their practices-became the founding fathers of this decidedly modern profession.
Ewen deftly escorts readers through the social conditions that led to PR, the ideas that inspired public relations pioneers, the escalating employment of images as tools of persuasion, the promiscuous advent of consultants, pollsters, "astro-turf" organizers, and other PR specialists. Public relations practitioners of today, along with other readers, will be fascinated by Ewen's account of the patriarchs of modern publicity (Ivy Lee, Edward Bernays, Elmo Roper, and others) and how they masterminded campaigns-some successful, some not-to shape the way America perceived major corporations such as AT&T and Standard Oil of New Jersey (known today as Exxon).
PR! is a rare and revealing journey into the back rooms of power. Using confidential sources from some of America's most prominent corporations, Ewen provides a vivid panorama of PR strategies in the making, how they worked or didn't work. He reveals the secrets behind what has been-until now-a largely hidden history.
© 1996, Stuart Ewen