An ‘outside-in’ PR history: Identifying the role of PR in history, culture and sociology

Robert Crawford, Jim Macnamara

Abstract


Historical, social and cultural understanding of public relations in Australia is limited because most histories of PR examine practices specifically labelled ‘public relations’ and almost all study PR from ‘inside out’ – that is, from the subjective perspective of PR practitioners. This article reports an alternative approach to PR history which applies historical analysis of major events, icons, and institutions in society to identify the methods of their construction politically, culturally and discursively. This article specifically reports historical and critical analysis of the creation and celebration of Australia’s national day, Australia Day from soon after the British flag was hoisted in Sydney on 26 January 1788 to the sophisticated pageantry of the nation’s bicentenary in 1988 and its entry to the new millennium in 2000. This research challenges a ‘blind spot’ in social science and humanities disciplines in relation to public relations by showing that the practices of PR are deeply embedded in the social and cultural construction of societies. This study confirms Taylor and Kent’s claim that “all nation building campaigns include large communication components that are essentially public relations campaigns”.

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