It is commonly stated that Public Relations has drastically changed history and society. Nothing could be truer than in regards to the so called “revolution in the 1960s. Public Relations was chiefly responsible for the both the genesis and the outcomes of the Civil Rights Movement and Feminist movements during the 1960s in the United States. For the Civil Rights movement in particular Public Relations strategy was an integral part in all aspects. There have always been advocates against white supremacy prior to the 1960s, however the advent of television and other forms of communication greatly expanded the reach and frequency of the messages for justice. For the first time the entire world was able to overtly see the abuse and mistreatment of non white/black people that wasn’t in the form of a newspaper or post card. Speeches, marches, protests and violence were all broadcasted in their raw form to millions.
Although the main PR message of the Feminist movement was to “liberate” women, it can certainly be argued that the movement itself was another counter PR campaign to piggy back on, distract, conflate and ultimately slow down the Civil Rights movement in an essential PR bailout plan for white America. Betty Friedan was a prominent figure in 1960s feminist movement and certainly used PR to garner support for the movement. During the time of the rise of NOW and the Feminist movement, the civil rights movement was also gaining momentum and prominence. Friedan’s book “ The Feminine Mystique” presented the idea that women were tired of being relegated to being domestic suburban beings and having to live in the shadow of their male counterparts. One could argue that the very idea of the feminist movement in the midst of the Civil Rights movement was a racist tactic by white women to shift the focus from ending white supremacy in the US to actually expanding white supremacy by giving the white female even more power and authority, thus doubling the household income of whites. The so called “ Leave it to Beaver” suburban lifestyle was being portrayed by N.O.W. and the media as being oppressive to women , all the while this “lifestyle” was essentially being denied to black and other non white people. The same group of people who were denying basic human rights to others, caused lynchings, condoned murder, rape and war , were now using Public Relations to claim victimization, and demanded even more power to partake in the white supremacy power structure.
One of the main lessons that can be learned when analyzing the Civil Rights and Feminist movements is that those who have access and control of the media are ultimately going to have the most success. Also, it is evidenced that conflating issues and piggybacking off of strong social movements can be a very effective public relations strategy. It is also interesting to note that the advancement of technology dramatically influenced both of these movements, as television became the main stage for both of these movements to play out.