The father of public relations looks back on a landmark life spent shaping trends, preferences, and general opinion
A twentieth-century marketing visionary, Edward L. Bernays brilliantly combined mastery of the social sciences with a keen understanding of human psychology to become one of his generation’s most influential social architects. In Biography of an Idea, Bernays traces the formative moments of his career, from his time in the Woodrow Wilson administration as one of the nation’s key wartime propagandists to his consultancy for such corporate giants as Procter & Gamble, General Electric, and Dodge Motors. While working with the American Tobacco Company, Bernays launched his now-infamous Lucky Strike campaign, which effectively ended the long-standing taboo against women smoking in public.
With his vast knowledge of the psychology of the masses, Bernays was in great demand, advising high-profile officials and counseling the tastemakers of his generation. His masterful and at times manipulative techniques had longstanding influences on social and political beliefs as well as on cultural trends. Biography of an Idea is a fascinating look at the birth of public relations—an industry that continues to hold sway over American society.
“Mr. Bernays was one of the first people to expand what had been a narrow concept of press agentry, or working to influence government policy, into a far more ambitious—and controversial—realm of seeking to influence and change public opinion and behavior.” —The New York Times
Edward L. Bernays (1891–1995) is commonly referred to as the father of public relations. Born in Vienna, Austria, and a nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays moved to the United States as a young child. His belief that popular opinion could and should be manipulated led him to create psychological and sociological techniques that allowed businesses, industries, and even governments to influence the public. Lucky Strike, the Waldorf Astoria, General Motors, General Electric, and Ivory soap numbered among his illustrious clients. Woodrow Wilson even hired Bernays to promote the American efforts in World War I. Famous for popularizing the use of the press release and developing memorable campaigns, Bernays is responsible for creating the field of public relations as we know it.