Public Relations for the Arts: What are the benefits?

Essay, 2006

16 Pages, Grade: 1



What are Public Relations anyway?

What is Arts Marketing?

What can PR do for the Arts?

“Engaging with contemporary art and ideas”

“I, Mark Kostabi, am a famous artist. I make millions.”



Long before the arts and public relations were literally formulated, they were already linked together. With the beginning of civilisation, visual arts were used to influence the public opinion. In ancient Egypt, impressive architecture such as statues and temples were built to represent the greatness of the ruling priests and nobles (Bates, 2002). Art was an essential element of the propaganda machines during World War II. Especially Hitler misused art to propagate his politic opinion amongst the public. Today, a vast range of companies use art in order to receive (hopefully) positive media coverage, e.g. Telecom New Zealand is sponsor of the New Zealand International Arts Festival, the City Gallery in Wellington and the Auckland Philharmonia, and initiator of the Telecom New Zealand International Film Festivals, the White Pages Arts Award and the IHC Telecom Art Award.

However, the connection between public relations and the arts must also be seen from another point of view. In terms of arts marketing, the arts can benefit from public relations. What are the benefits for artists and arts organisations, and how can they use public relations in order to promote their products ?

The arts is a rather abstract term that is used to describe a broad range of creative work. The distinction between high arts and popular arts is still common and implicates a resounding range of possibilities (Colbert, 2002). Speaking of arts in this essay includes all forms of visual art one can find in a gallery or museum, such as paintings, photography, sculptures, pottery and glass work. Furthermore, the author aims to personalise the arts through the use of rather tangible terms such as the artist, arts organisation or cultural organisation. This essay does not comprise other art forms such as performing arts, language arts, culinary arts, art festivals, classes of artwork, blockbuster art, architecture, and the art of advertisement[1].

In terms of public relations, this essay focuses on external PR[2].

What are Public Relations anyway?

Simply speaking, public relations (PR) mean the management of communication between an organisation and its publics (Grunig & Hunt, 1984). Its purpose is to arrange active communication through goal-orientated information processes (Reineke & Eisele, 1994) in order to create awareness, influence public opinions, promote and protect reputations (Tymson & Lazar, 2002).

Public relations are one of the oldest professions. “Ever since people and communities have wanted to communicate they have used the skills of public relations, but it is only in recent times that these skills have been refined and integrated into a separate discipline” (Carty, 1992, p. 8). The origins of modern PR lie in America. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights may all be seen as great PR documents of their time (Bates, 2002). In the late 1800s, a lot of companies all over America started to employ press agents in order to promote their ideas and products. The Association of American Railroads claims that it was the first company to use the term public relation in its Year Book of Railway Literature in 1987 (Bates, 2002). Other sources state that public relations was used for the first time by the American lawyer Dorman Eaton in 1882. He explained PR at Yale Law School with to mean relations for the general good (Reineke & Eisele, 1994). However, America’s first publicity firm, The Publicity Bureau, was founded in Boston in 1900 and marks the beginning of independent public relations departments.

One of the pioneers in public relations is Ivy Ledbetter Lee. With a background in journalism, Lee believed in open communication with the media and helped to “humanise wealthy businessmen and to cast big businesses in a more positive light” (Bates, 2002, p. 9). At the end of the 19th Century, the American coal industry came under public fire and had to deal with a series of strikes.

Lee was hired by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the Rockefeller family as a consultant. On their behalf, he developed the Declaration of Principles which states (in: Bates, 2002):

illustration not visible in this excerpt

More than a decade later, PR-pioneer and nephew of Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays, wrote the first textbook about public relations: Crystallizing Public Opinions, followed by Propaganda (1928) and Public Relations (1952). Bernays’ approach to PR included applied psychoanalysis and he, therefore, helped to profile public relations as a communicative discipline (Reineke & Eisele, 1994). However, back then, the distinction between public relations and propaganda was literally non-existent. Bernays commented about the origin of the term PR: “When I came back to the United States, I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans... using it. So what I did was to try to find some other words, so we found the words Council on Public Relations.”[3] The economic boom in America after World War II boosted the development of professional public relations. Several organisations were founded to represent the interests of public relations practitioners, e.g. the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) was founded in 1948.

The development of public relations towards a serious profession included the promulgation of ethical guidelines. Nevertheless ethic guides such as the PRSA Code of Professional Standards from 1950 were introduced to PR practitioners; the supervision of compliance had been lax ever since (Bates, 2002). Today, a huge amount of ethical codes and guidelines exists which tries to implement values, such as honesty, independence, and fairness[4], in the work of professional PR.


[1] Further information on the art of advertisement: Brown, S. & Peterson, A. (2000). Imaging Marketing,

Art, Aesthetic and the Avant Garde.

[2] Although PR plays an important role within an organisation’s internal communication, this will not be

the main focus in this essay.

[3] Quote retrieved May 5th 2006 from

[4] Retrieved May 8th 2006 from

Excerpt out of 16 pages


Public Relations for the Arts: What are the benefits?
University of Auckland  (School of Comunication Studies)
Media Communications Research Methods
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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510 KB
Public, Relations, Arts, What, Media, Communications, Research, Methods
Quote paper
Candy Lange (Author), 2006, Public Relations for the Arts: What are the benefits?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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