Edward Bernays: The Inspiration For A Generation of PR Professionals
The comic book supervillain who forged his own path
By: Jordan Wheeler
When I think of public relations, one of the first people to pop into my head is Edward Bernays. Bernays was respectfully named the Father of Public Relations and it was through his ability to influence people and the variety of his work that he changed America forever. He was a manipulative genius that could even be seen as a “Lex Luthor” type of supervillain. However, what no one can deny is that he had a large impact on the development of American society.
There once was a farmer…
One thing about Bernays that few seem to know is that he came from a Jewish farming family. His father, Ely Bernays, sent him to college to study agriculture so that he could return and improve the family farm and continue the family legacy. However, after graduating with his agriculture degree, Bernays chose to make his own legacy in the world of journalism. It is impressive because, despite having a stable path laid out before him that would have allowed him to live a normal life, Bernays chose the uncertain path and became a man who could change the world with a few words.
Variety is the spice of life
Throughout his career in journalism and public relations, Bernays created many PR campaigns for many different companies. The one that many dislike him for is his “Torches of Freedom” as it greatly expanded the tobacco industry in the 1920’s. However, the campaign I find the most interesting was his campaign for the Beech-Nut Packing Company, a pork selling business with the goal of selling more bacon. Bernays did work for many businesses and even worked for American presidents. His large variety of work is impressive and is one of the reasons he became such a big name in his field.
Changing the world with words
The thing that amazes me most about Edward Bernays is his influence on American behavior. This influence can be seen both with his “Torches of Freedom” and with “classic American breakfasts.” The Torches of Freedom campaign is obvious in its influence; it told the world that not only should women smoke, but that it’s completely normal. This opened women as a consumer group for tobacco companies. The classic American
breakfast is something few people know about. In the 1920’s Bernays created a campaign with the goal of selling more bacon by convincing people that bacon and eggs were the best breakfast to eat for one’s health. Bacon and eggs are still considered to be a nice, healthy breakfast commonly eaten today and it was created by Bernays.
With his ability to manipulate people Bernays I can easily picture him as a comic book supervillain. However, no matter what people think of him, Bernays was a genius who created his own path in the world of Public Relations. His actions can still be felt today, and it is amazing how a man can influence a nation with only a few words.
About the author:
Jordan Wheeler is a senior at UNT working on a double major in English literature and public relations. He discovered his interest in public relations in an elective class and, since then, his interest has grown into true passion. He hopes to use the skills he has learned to help any client or employer he will work with in the future.