Public relations became a profession in 1903. One of the founding fathers of PR, Ivy Lee advised John D. Rockefeller, who owned coal mines and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Miners were on strike and the railroad hushed up the facts when its trains were involved with accidents. Lee advised Rockefeller to visit the coal mines and talk to the miners. Rockefeller spent time listening to the complaints of the miners, improved their conditions and became a hero to the miners.
After a railroad accident, Lee invited reporters to inspect the wreck and get the facts. The Pennsylvania Railroad obtained its first favourable press coverage and Lee professionalized public relations by following these principles:
- Tell the truth
- Provide accurate facts
- Give reporters access to top management
Today, the world of PR has changed dramatically but those basic principals for crisis PR have not.