History of Public Relations

Is there a link between Silent Film Actors, the War Effort of WW1 and Public Relations? Yes there is…

Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks, were Hollywood actors and directors of the early 20th Century. They had the ability to convince unprecedented crowds of bewildered Americans, that WW1 was a sacred crusade (Hollywood Silent Film 1980). Their appearances and speeches were more influential than any President, Prime Minister or Politician of that time. The stars raised the nation’s morale and millions of dollars for war bonds.

Image: United Artists, The Company Built by the Stars 1919. From left: Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith.

This historical example of Public Relations was so much more than merely advertising an opportunity for Americans to make their country proud. It had a function, a Public Relations function, that was to help the government thrive in a complex and volatile environment, with economic, social, and political factors constantly at risk (Wilcox et al. 2013, p.14).

Fast forward to today and you can see, that Public Relations relies on communication mediums, such as social media, special events, news releases, and feature stories (Wilcox et al. 2013). Today celebrities such as Jamie Oliver, Angelina Jolie, or Kim Kardashian would be in the place of people like Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks. However, it is a little difficult to imagine modern day celebrities standing on podiums, compelling unprecedented crowds, and shouting their speeches through megaphones, like their predecessors had. Instead we have platforms like Youtube, Facebook, and tools, such as Hashtags, which people tend to use in getting their message across.

Image: Pray For Paris


Hollywood Silent Film, Goes To War, 1980, video, viewed 16 March 2016,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbAj1J6UKys

Katharine Kelly, Silent Film Actors and The War Effort: COMM11110, video, 16 March 2016, viewed 16 March 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqzfmak5_Ac

Liberty Bond 1918, image, viewed 17 March 2016, https://www.google.com.au/search?q=america+crowds+ww1&biw=1411&bih=723&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjj8oq6-sbLAhUGn5QKHQ5tAtcQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=txzg-5YEkRVR9M%3A

Pray For Paris, image, viewed 17 March 2016, http://www.lovethispic.com/image/214611/pray-for-paris-quote

United Artists: The Company Built by the Stars 1919, image, viewed 17 March 2016, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/united-artist-1919-vs-tidal-music-2015-andrew-irvine

Wilcox, D, Cameron, G, Reber, B, Shin, JH 2013, THINK Public Relations, Pearson Education Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, United States of America.