• Public relations in the past: What can history teach us?

    The communication industry is older than you think – people throughout history have always made a special effort to communicate with those around them. Elizabeth I, for instance, carefully honed an image of strength and power in a time when no one believed women could rule. Similarly, in Ancient Rome, the Emperor Augustus' Altar of the Peace showed his family's part in restoring the Roman Republic. So, what can we learn from public relations in the past, and how can we use this to improve the industry today?

    Really connect with your audience

    At Elizabeth I's coronation, the new queen made sure she stopped to listen to everyone's congratulations – even the lowliest beggar received her attentions. Without the internet, face-to-face meetings were one of the few ways historical figures had to connect with their audience. This was also a technique Barack Obama used during the 2008 and 2012 elections, when he made a point of shaking hands with as many supporters as possible.

    A post shared by Barack Obama (@barackobama) on

    It's easy to get caught up in the internet and social media campaigning, but the lesson to be learnt here is that we can't forget the importance of personal encounters. One Facebook post might reach a lot of people, but events and meetings are much more memorable. They also bring extra opportunities for coverage when these events get reported and shared.

    Visual media works best

    The majority of people in the past were illiterate. So, if someone wanted to make a statement, they had to do it through images. This is why Anglo-Saxon kings showed their wealth and power through the treasures they had plundered, and the might of Rome is, even today, still best summed up visually, by the greatest amphitheatre ever built – the Colosseum.

    A study conducted by BuzzSumo of over 1 million articles found that ones with images every 75-100 words get double the amount of shares than those with fewer pictures. We shouldn't just use any old photograph, however – pictures have to be good quality to stand out. So, let's stop using the stock company images and take advantage of the wonderful world of the internet, and more importantly, the public domain, to get visual media that really resonates with your target audience. (Just make sure you keep within copyright restrictions!)

    As communication professionals, we always need to keep on top of new trends in the industry. Looking back in history, however, helps us know which ones have stood the test of time. 

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