According to the history books, public relations in the United States officially began in 1900 with the installation of a public relations bureau in Boston. The idea quickly caught on as 1914 brought the debacle with the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company known as the Ludlow Massacre, where the company burned to death 20 people, including wives and children of coal workers.
Do corporations need public relations? At times corporations need such officers in great measure. Take, for example, the Tylenol scare some years ago or the recent Martha Stewart brand challenges. But public relations is useful for more than just crisis management. Examples may be reporting the efforts of large charities like Samaritan's Purse and Habitat for Humanity or simply day-to-day public relations reps who announce new staff members or introduce a new CEO.
Whatever the news, public relations is often driving and emphasizing the desired messages on your television, in your newspaper and magazine, and perhaps influencing individuals directly.
At OBU, Anne Hammond is at the helm as Chair of the Language and Literature department which proudly houses the public relations major. "When you look at what public relations requires, our program is strong," Anne says. "Our students do well when they enter the market because we have kept public relations and journalism in Language and Literature." As a profession that began during the era that saw Barnum and Bailey Circus increase in attendance in part due to what in today's terms would be a public relations campaign, the idea of training for public relations is a giant 100 year leap.
Many public relations students do survey a variety of subjects including newswriting, editing, news reporting, broadcast news, web design, and desktop publishing. Another part of the major is 256 hours of internship for a 3 hour course. "Most of our students do their internship during the summer," says Anne. "We help them with their resume but they network to find their own internship. We've had student intern at many businesses including Glacier Park, Mobil, Sonic Headquarters, Bank of Texas, Fleishman Hillard, Omniplex Oklahoma City, and a variety of hospitals."
Hopefully no companies will plan an employee scourging. Good public relations wouldn't help such brutality. But, in the world where messages bombard so much of our landscape, effective public relations says to us, "This may be worth noting; this may be important." The program at OBU offers training that demands integrity and the hard work to put forward a public relations effort that is consistently on message.