Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Wednesday, 21 April 2010 12:17 UK

Public relations is now history

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

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Public relations is history. Or at least the art of PR is being studied as history.

Bournemouth University is going to hold its first international conference on the history of public relations.

Among the topics to be discussed at the two-day conference will be "Public Relations in Communist Hungary" and "Embracing the Embarrassing".

Conference organiser Tom Watson says the subject is a "healthy youngster with plenty of potential for growth".

Academics from 14 countries will be delivering papers to this inaugural conference in July.

PhDs in PR

These will range from looking at ideas such as the relationship between propaganda and public relations and other more niche areas, such as the history of public relations in Kosovo.

There will be examinations of PR from long before the modern era of press releases and media campaigns, such as the financial bubble created around the South Sea Company in the 18th Century.

Public relations is now its own major industry, with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations saying that PR employs about 48,000 people in the UK in businesses with a turnover of £6.5bn.

The CIPR itself has a history that goes back to the late 1940s, but a spokeswoman says that it has been in the last couple of decades that PR has really been established as a "key discipline in communications".

There has been an accompanying growth in public relation students at university.

For this year's university applicants there are 262 public relations degree courses on offer.

These include combinations such as public relations with dance at the University of Sunderland and sports massage and public relations at the University of Derby.

Appropriately for a PR-related event, there are sponsorship opportunities for the conference in Bournemouth. A key speaker can be sponsored for £1,000 or there are four coffee breaks that can be sponsored for £150 each.

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