The most important and scary thing I take away from PR history is the PR can create history & culture.
Think about it: brands like Betty Crocker and Wheaties – the Breakfast of Champions, which are now part of American culture, where once someone’s PR project (OK, marketing, too!). Ivy L. Lee created these brands.
So, if you’re successful in PR, you can create cultural icons.
What’s scary about that?
The thought that one person, possibly me or you, can influence culture to such a large degree is a huge responsibility. What if I’m wrong? What if you’re wrong?
What if today you’re only promoting cereal, but one day, long after you’re gone, your work has become part of the fabric of a culture… like …smoking, or eating eggs & bacon for breakfast (recall the Torches of Freedom campaign? Bernays had something to do with eggs & bacon, too!)
Along with the power to communicate with many people professionally comes the huge responsibility to do no harm.
Sure, people can and should think critically and fend for themselves, not let themselves be persuaded by anything you or I say.
But what if they believe you?
Will the world be a better place then?
(For information on campaigns and PR history, see The Museum of Public Relations – website was down when I was writing this post, so I couldn’t link to specifics, but will update that later.]