Two letters sum it up: B and P. While BP has only gained one brief mention so far at the International History of Public Relations Conference (#ihprc), my B stands for Bernays and P for propaganda.
Edward Bernays, the self-appointed father of public relations was everywhere (and something of an embarrassment because of his association with tobacco and with banana republics).
Propaganda was also inescapable, though opinions on this topic varied. We learnt from Robert Heath of John Hill's attempt to distance public relations from propaganda. 'PR exists to inform people and keep their minds open. Propaganda exists to misinform and keep minds closed.'
Gunter Bentele told how in communist East Germany the conceptual relationship between public relations and propaganda (or 'agitation' versus propaganda) was almost the reverse of that in the west.
We're hearing about 'terrorism' as propaganda. Perspectives are global, but the small scale of the conference is a strength: most people have read the same texts and so discussion can move on to interpretation of events and underlying issues.