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Rex Harlow as a Historical Figure in Public Relations Research Paper

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Updated: May 17th, 2020

Abstract

In this paper, I chose Rex Harlow as a historical figure in public relations. Rex Harlow is considered one of the most influential pioneers in the history of public relations. Harlow’s involvement in the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and experience in publication provoked a public relations interest. Harlow’s interests were fine-tuned at Central State Teachers College and Stanford University where he specialized in public relations as a profession. Harlow’s contribution to public relations by writing books, journals, giving speeches and consultations is impeccable. From Harlow’s contribution, one understands the importance attached to Public Relations (PR) in respect to managing information.

Harlow illustrates how public relations have been developed and transformed consistently with changes in society, human behavior and needs. As a student of public relations, one borrows a lot from Harlow’s commitment in accrediting the profession. Harlow’s work and studies on the code of ethics, sociological and psychological research is paramount for students of public relations. In this regard, students understand the founding principles behind public relations from an academic perspective especially through research. Harlow offers a variety of information regarding public relations through scholarly materials, lecture notes and speech recordings.

Introduction

It is imperative to understand that Public Relations (PR) involve managing information between the source and public. The history of public relations is traceable back in the 18th century. The seedbed era between 1900 -1916 is associated with notable historical public relations events. During this period, organizations used public relations to inform people on various issues related to social reforms and workers’ unions. Public relations became significant during the World War one period (Brewer, Gross, Aday & Willnat, 2004). A change in public relations practices has been critical between 1920s and current globalization era. It is important to note that key figures were instrumental in shaping the history of public relations. Rex Harlow is considered a pioneer of public relations. In fact, Harlow is attributed with establishment of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). This research paper focuses on Harlow’s role in public relations over the years.

Person studied

Rex Harlow is considered a writer and public relations pioneer. Born in 1892, Harlow was lucky to get education in Missouri’s common schools (Penning, 2005). Harlow immersed himself in the world of the publishing business. In fact, Harlow used his skills to establish a weekly publication in Oklahoma. Eventually, Harlow upgraded the weekly paper to a publication company under his name. Upon joining Central State Teacher’s College, he specialized in public relations. In addition, he pursued his public relations interest at Stanford University in California where he earned a doctoral degree and became a professor. Harlow is attributed with the founding of a public relations department at Stanford University (Harlow, 1940).

Rex Harlow contribution in public relations is exemplary especially in making the discipline an accredited profession. Harlow focused in making public relations as a core element in social responsibility. Public relations practices are integrated into an organization’s strategic plan of sharing information with the world.

Harlow’s advocacy in identifying and developing a code of ethics is considered one of his major contributions in public relations. Through PRSA, Harlow advocated for a set of rules and guidelines that professionals have to follow when at work. Harlow noted that professionals required certain behavioral standards especially when faced with ethical dilemmas.

Harlow believed that effective public relations required understanding human behavior from a sociological and psychological perspective (Broom, Casey & Ritchey, 1997). Moreover, accrediting public relations practices required an academic rationale. Therefore, Harlow conducted research to justify public relations practices. Most of the sociological and psychological research focused on human behavior, group psychology, ethical issues and public relations impact on society.

Harlow published and edited journals on issues related to his profession. For example, his contribution was evidenced in Public Relations Journal between 1945 and 1947. Harlow’s other important literary work included the Social Science Reported and Public Relations Research Review between 1952 and 1960. It is important to note that Harlow also wrote at least 75 books. Some of the notable public relations books by Harlow include “Public Relations in War and Peace,” “Building a Public Relations Definition” and “Practical Public Relations” (Harlow, 1944).

Conclusion

Harlow’s contributions to public relations exemplify fundamental principles required in the profession. Moreover, accreditation of public relations as a profession is founded on research principles. Harlow’s passion in shaping public relations derives the importance of sharing information from his experience as a writer, publisher and ex-soldier. Harlow’s interest in sociological and psychological research is consistent with the requirements of public relation professional. Harlow’s devotion in accrediting public relations was complemented by several literary works based on the profession.

In this context, Harlow gave other researchers a foundation to conduct intensive studies on public relations. Perhaps, this explains why much interest is given to the code of ethics in various professions in recent times. For many years, Harlow acted as a public relations consultant. Moreover, he was awarded several honors such as the Public Relations Man of the Year in 1953 and Gold Anvil Award of PRSA in 1969. Harlow is recognized as an influential public relations figure of the 20th century. Unfortunately, Harlow died in 1993 at the age of 100 in California.

References

Brewer, P. R., Gross, K., Aday, S & Willnat, L. (2004). International trust and public opinion about world affairs. American Journal of Political Science, 48(1), 93-109. Web.

Broom, G. M., Casey, S & Ritchey, J. (1997). Toward a concept and theory of organization-public relationships. Journal of Public relations research, 9(2), 83-98. Web.

Harlow, R. F. (1940). The American Council on public relations. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 4(2), 324-326. Web.

Harlow, R. F. (1944). Public Relations at the Crossroads. Public Opinion Quarterly, 8(4), 551-556. Web.

Penning, T. (2005). Questioning assumptions: Why teaching public relations is consistent with liberal education. Grand Valley Review, 28(1), 21. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Rex Harlow as a Historical Figure in Public Relations." May 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/rex-harlow-as-a-historical-figure-in-public-relations/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Rex Harlow as a Historical Figure in Public Relations." May 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/rex-harlow-as-a-historical-figure-in-public-relations/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Rex Harlow as a Historical Figure in Public Relations'. 17 May.

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