In the 1950s, public relations practitioners tried to garner respectability for their fledgling profession, and one international figure helped in that endeavor. President Dwight D. Eisenhower embraced public relations as a necessary component of American democracy, advancing the profession at a key moment in its history. But he did more than believe in public relations—he practiced it. Eisenhower changed how America campaigns by leveraging television and Madison Avenue advertising. Once in the Oval Office, he maximized the potential of a new medium as the first U.S. president to seek training for television and to broadcast news conferences on television. Additionally, Eisenhower managed the news through his press office, molding the role of the modern presidential press secretary. The first president to adopt a policy of full disclosure on health issues, Eisenhower survived (politically as well as medically) three serious illnesses while in office. The Eisenhower Administration was the most forthcoming on the president's health at the time, even though it did not always live up to its own policy. In short, Eisenhower deserves credit as this nation's most innovative public relations president, because he revolutionized America's political communication process, forever changing the president's relationship with the Fourth Estate, Madison Avenue, public relations, and ultimately, the American people.
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Pam Parry (Author)
Pam Parry is associate professor of communication at Eastern Kentucky University