Privileging an activist vs. a corporate view of public relations history in the U.S. Academic Article uri icon


  • This article elaborates on the argument that the history of U.S. public relations has been distorted by the emphasis on corporate functions of public relations. The dominant corporate-centric view of U.S. public relations history often claim that public relations developed as a response to activists who attempted to interfere with business operations. That myopic, corporate-centric view has perpetuated a negative view of public relations as merely a tool of "big business" In the past as well as the present, corporations have been learning from and co-opting activists' innovative public relations techniques. By alternatively grounding U.S. public relations history in the works of activists, we open possibilities for re-imagining the field and legitimizing activists' works as a positive, central component in public relations theory and research. We end by providing resources educators can utilize to teach a more balanced view of public relations history in the U.S. 2011 Elsevier Inc.

published proceedings

  • Public Relations Review

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J.

citation count

  • 58

complete list of authors

  • Coombs, W Timothy||Holladay, Sherry J

publication date

  • January 2012