Public Relations in the Ancient World

Most people consider public relations a modern discipline, but there are also some great examples from the ancient world that are worthy of study. Julius Caesar, the Roman general and politician, used a masterful communications strategy to shape public opinion.

While Caesar was off fighting a war in France, he found himself getting publicly slandered by powerful enemies in the Roman Senate. Caesar didn’t have a way to respond because information from the battlefield traditionally flowed through the Senate before being spread to the people. Caesar was doing a great job in France, but nobody knew about it because that information was being distorted by the Senate.

Caesar solved the problem by writing several books, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, that delivered fascinating stories about his campaign directly to the people. This approach circumvented the Senate-filtered channels of communication and spoke directly to his target audience. (It also established the tradition of political autobiographies.)

The modern analogue would be a general live-tweeting a military operation

The Comentarii proactively spread favorable information, which gave Caesar the opportunity to shape the narrative about the war. And since there are so few surviving first-hand accounts from the time period, he essentially got to write the first draft of the historical record.

If you enjoyed this article about the history of public relations, you might also like this interview about history and Washington, DC.

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