Pioneer American Publicist Edward L. Bernays on Psychology and Public Relations

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Summary: Edward Bernays played one of the key roles in the development of modern public relations. He also correctly predicted that during the last forty years of the twentieth century it would became a major field in American business and communications.


Edward L. Bernays—whose book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, was published in 1923—had a profound influence on the fledgling public relations field. In fact, Bernays' book was the first full-length book devoted to the beginning ideas of what was to become contemporary public relations.
 


A man of stature in New York and Europe's literary world, Edward Bernays firmly believed in the art of psychology and in its application to public relations. He was a close relative of Sigmund Freud, the Viennese founder of psychoanalysis and one of the greatest thinkers of this century. Bernays adapted the ideas of psychoanalysis and applied them to public relations.
 
As the pioneer American publicist, Bernays' belief in the interaction and feedback of individuals and their ideas was largely drawn from psychoanalysis. Nowhere are Bernays's ideas better described, especially as they relate to this two-way process of psychology, than in Biography of an Idea: Memories of Public Relations Counsel, which was published in 1965.
 
“My work with Liveright (a New York publisher) represented a divide between what I had done—my presage entry, publicity, publicity direction—and what I now attempted to do: counsel on public relations. This was no mere difference in nomenclature, no euphemistic change-over. It was a different activity, in approach and execution. From a one-way street of information and persuasion from client to public, it became a two-way street, with the element of adjustment added to the other two elements. Counsel on public relations was based on dealing with interaction between client and public.”
 
Later, Edward Bernays taught the first public relations course at New York University; that, too, was a landmark in a profession that now is taught on many American university campuses. Bernays is considered the first to develop the idea of the professional public relations counselor.
 
He was a dynamic spokesman and an advocate for public relations into his 90s, and has been the author of many books, and the most influential of them have been Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923), Propaganda (1928), and Public Relations (1952). He has also edited many books on public relations.
 
 Not only did Edward Bernays play one of the key roles in the development of modern public relations, he also correctly predicted that during the last forty years of the twentieth century it would became a major field in American business and communications. Before Edward Bernays, there was no such term as ‘public relations’ in our vocabulary. Today, it is hard to imagine the language without it.
 
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