Edward L. Bernays is looked at as one of the major pioneers of American Public Relations. Born in 1891, Bernays was a nephew of the legendary Sigmund Freud. Bernays had many accomplishments over his lifetime that were looked at as milestones in the public relations profession. His methods of combining general psychology and the methods of corporate influence were unique in his own (Ewen).
After working for numerous companies through much of the 1900's, Bernays had a lot of major campaigns that were looked at as highlights. Such companies Bernays worked for included Lucky Strike Cigarettes, General Electric, and Westinghouse. These companies had major problems with getting the general public's attention or cooperation. Bernays conducted a "Torches to Freedom" rally for Lucky Strike Cigarettes and a "Light's Golden Jubilee" campaign for General Electric and Westinghouse.
In the 1920's legislation kept women from smoking in public. Seeing as how women gained the right to vote in 1920, this led to some controversy. Bernays was approached by George Washington Hill, president of the American Tobacco Company, in 1928 and asked him to come up with a strategy to change this tradition. Hill backed the brand of Lucky Strike Cigarettes and thought sales would excel if this law could be changed.
Bernays realized that the woman's suffrage movement was in full swing, and he figured it could be an important link to his campaign. After discussing his campaign with a psychoanalyst, Bernays found out that cigarettes were looked at as "torches of freedom" to women who wanted to be equal with men (PRmuseum). Bernays included the term "torches of freedom" with Lucky Strike Cigarettes, and it changed history forever.
Bernays staged an event at New York's annual Easter Day Parade that finished his campaign with a bang. Bernays asked ten debutantes that were in the parade to light a cigarette while walking down the street. The display caused a social uproar of stories and rumors that changed the social norm. Bernays successfully completed his task without lobbying or going to courts. He simply found out what caused attention and did it (Wilcox). After the Lucky Strike campaign, Bernays was summoned by General Electric and Westinghouse to create another campaign.
The campaign Bernays was involved in for General Electric and Westinghouse was more of a tribute campaign. General Electric wanted to create a celebration for the 50-year anniversary of the invention of the incandescent light bulb. This event would also honor the light bulbs inventor Thomas Edison. There was already a scheduled event for a ceremony to take place on the day the invention was introduced (Wilcox). Six months before the celebration, Bernays handed out the story of the incandescent light bulb and its creator to newspapers around the nation.
Bernays spoke with the postmaster general to promote the event. The title of the campaign "Light's Golden Jubilee" was printed on a stamp in commemoration of the ceremony. After building up the hype of the anniversary through newspapers and stamps, Bernays thought of a perfect plan to top off the ceremony. Bernays spoke with the Electric companies of world to plan a power shut off on the day of the event. Sure enough on October 21, 1929 most power companies around the world shut off their power for one minute in honor of Thomas Edison (PRmuseum).
Edward L. Bernays proved to be an amazing man when it came to PR. He is looked at today as one of the founders of the modern practice. Using his techniques, many PR practitioners around the world have learned to excel in productive public relations.