1906 vs 2013

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

  1. This is not a secret press bureau. All our work is done in the open. We aim to supply news.
  2. This is not an advertising agency; if you think any of our matter ought properly to go to your business office, do not use it.
  3. Our matter is accurate. Further details on any subject treated will be supplied promptly, and any editor will be assisted most cheerfully in verifying directly any statement of fact.
  4. Upon inquiry, full information will be given to any editor concerning those on whose behalf an article is sent out.
  5. In brief, our plan is, frankly and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public institutions, to supply to the press and public of the United States prompt and accurate information concerning subjects which it is of value and interest to the public to know about.
  6. Corporations and public institutions give out much information in which the news point is lost to view. Nevertheless, it is quite as important to the public to have this news as it is to the establishments themselves to give it currency.
  7. I send out only matter every detail of which I am willing to assist any editor in verifying for himself.
  8. I am always at your service for the purpose of enabling you to obtain more complete information concerning any of the subjects brought forward in my copy.


Ivy Lee's first press release, printed verbatim in The New York Times: Every PR person's dream.

Ivy Lee’s first press release, printed verbatim in The New York Times: Every PR person’s dream.

This is Ivy Lee’s Declaration of Principles, written in 1906 (but bulletized by me). When I was studying PR in college in the late 80s and early 90s, it still rang true. Today, with a few changes, it could serve as a damn good foundation for any agency’s engagement in social media and public relations programs for a client.

So, um, what went wrong? How did we get from these relatively enlightened principles to the smoky backroom deals that later characterized PR’s poor reputation?

The truth is, these words were written in response to the first complaints about PR, which came about just a few short months after founding the first PR agency. And just a few months after the first press release, which I explore in more detail on the Publicity Club blog, and which appeared as printed here verbatim in of all places, The New York Times.

So Ivy went from the ultimate PR success — verbatim copy in a tier one media outlet — to journalistic derision (at least among some) within the matter of a few months (by around 1914, Upton Sinclair was calling him “Poison Ivy”). What are we to do?

Don’t draw the curtains. Keep the air clear. Keep the door open. And return to Ivy’s original principles.

Todd Van Hoosear

About Todd Van Hoosear

Todd’s love of technology started as a child, when his dad would bring home chips and switches from his work in the electronics industry that would feed his imagination for years. Combining a stint as an IT guy with his education in PR and communication, Todd has helped clients in the engineering, mobile, cloud, networking, consumer technology and consulting spaces bring new ideas – and new takes on old ideas – to the market.

Learn more about Todd

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