The precursors of PR - the story of Ivy Lee

Ivy Lee has been called one of the fathers of PR and a pioneer in the field. He was the one who opposed the suppression of the truth and manipulation of information by various organisations and companies. What is the story of one of the most important professionals in the history of PR and how did he earn this title?

Ivy Lee was born in 1877. He worked for several New York newspapers, including the New York Times. All his subsequent activities, views and career were influenced by the company he spent time with during his career - these were mainly well-known personalities from the economic world.

It is he who is responsible for formulating the basic principle of public relations, which is: 'the public must be informed' ('public be informed'). A phrase that was uttered in 1900 is still relevant today. This statement emphasises respect for the public's right to be informed in a truthful and accurate manner through communications to: employees, customers and trade unions. It contradicted the previous approach, according to which messages going out to the public could be manipulative and untrue, and the welfare of the organisation itself was paramount.

Ivy Lee is also known for opening the world's first PR agency - this happened in 1905. In turn, the very next year he created the first press release, which dealt with a train crash and was aimed at journalists - such an unconventional action earned him publicity. In 1906, he also published a Declaration of Principles that dealt with PR activities and circulated it to the media.

He soon began working with the richest man in history - John D. Rockefeller, which was aimed at improving the philanthropist's image. Ivy Lee suggested to him that he distribute one-cent coins to poor children - this small act was supposed to make J. D. Rockefeller start to be perceived by those around him as a man with a good heart.

Ivy Lee played a very important role in the history of PR - he was the first to not be afraid to speak out about the dishonest practices of organisations and companies. He was also effective in promoting a different position, arguing that honesty and integrity can do more than a lie - which sooner or later will come to light anyway. According to him, a company should come to a compromise with its environment and thus build trust in the brand.

As a matter of interest, Ivy Lee once also worked for Poland. He was hired in the interwar period and was tasked with promoting Polish bonds and developing confidence for our domestic economy.


Text author: Ola