Public relations and the making of modern Britain

Stephen Tallents and the birth of a progessive media profession

Author: Scott Anthony

Public relations was established in Britain by a group of liberal intellectuals in the aftermath of the slump. This book argues that the development was a product of the Great Depression. It challenges the template of British public relations history popularised by Professor Sam Black. While Civil Servants began to develop ideas about the necessity of public relations, state use of 'propaganda' during the Great War had been a controversial intervention that cast a grim shadow across the postwar period. Sir Stephen Tallents stands at the centre of this story, touching every significant public relations innovation in early twentieth-century Britain. The book tracks the development of public relations through the peaks and troughs of Tallents's career, which is to build a holistic understanding of the discipline's political, professional, organisational and personal genesis. Transferred to the Empire Marketing Board (EMB), Tallents saw an imaginative correlation between Frank Pick's co-ordination of the existing underground railway companies with Britain's relationship to its Empire. The EMB Film Unit established in 1928 was crucial to the development of this radical function of public relations. Introducing public relations at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the Ministry of Information pitted Tallents's subtle sensibility against more powerful ideological, institutional and political competition. Under Tallents, the General Post Office (GPO) produced a range of educational materials, supplying schools with educational posters, toy telephone sets, model post offices and instructional pamphlets on the history of communication. He and others formed the Institute of Public Relations in 1948.

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