• Log In
  • Sign Up
    • Please join me in welcoming Shelley J. Spector, cofounder and president of The Museum of Public Relations, the world's only museum devoted to that specific field of communications.

      A bit about Shelley's background: Shelley is the President of Spector & Associates, a 27-year-old corporate communications firm known widely for producing award-winning campaigns for global corporations, primarily in technology, aviation, defense and industrial. Building upon the principles of the firm's early mentor, Edward Bernays, Spector & Associates seeks every day to demonstrate the business impact of public relations, creating breakthrough positioning programs that directly influence sales, build market share and create employee engagement. Since the company's founding in 1991, Spector & Associates have won more than 40 industry awards for companies including AT&T, Bayer, Goldman Sachs, ITT and Philips.

      The Museum of Public Relations is based in New York City. Its mission statement is to be a "Public Relations Museum and reference library that provides a historical review of the profession through a growing collection that chronicles the evolution of the field."

    • The Public Relations field has really not changed. It’s still the same discipline that it’s always been, except we now use different communications channels and media technologies.

      The modern public relations counseling firm was created in 1919 --100 years ago. It was meant to create a 2-way street between an organization and its publics, building public relationships between an organization and its publics. How you go about building these public relationships--whether through good policy, whether through creating awareness of good things a company is doing, whether it’s through listening to your publics and responding to them by implementing programs that will instill greater trust and goodwill-- it all comes down to building relationships with your publics. So when Bernays first created this term and laid down the founding principles for practicing this, what did he have at hand to work with?  What were the technologies he had at his disposal?  He had a manual typewriter. He could make copies by using carbon paper. (That's where "cc" comes from, by the way: carbon copy). He had a telephone, but not everybody had telephones in the early 1920’s. Radio was first coming into its own, and nobody quite knew yet how you could use it in PR. At the time it was used just for getting the news and listening to live bands playing in the studio. It would be another 40 years before he could make use of television and another 70 before he could use the Internet. So Bernays relied on creating big ideas, based on research and business strategy,
      and making news via special events (like the Lights Golden Jubilee) or through ground-breaking surveys (like positioning bacon and eggs as a healthy breakfast).

      So if you think about public relations, you have to look at that as a constant over the past 100 years. It's not unlike advertising, management, medicine or law.  All these professions are
      practiced pretty much the same, but with better technologies at our disposal. I mean, I think social media is terrific. But it’s not the be-all and end-all like so many people think. It's like in the 20s, PR people used to think “Wow, newsreels!  That could be a real game-changer! And in the 30s, "Wow. We radio talkshows. What a game changer!” So social media changes the game a bit, but the objectives are still the same.

      When TV was first being used in business, in the early 60s, PR people would say “Oh my god, how do we use this thing for PR?” There was actually a two- day PRSA conference in 1961 where they discussed all the great new possibilities TV would present, how it would revolutionize the entire PR industry.  And this was when most markets only had three or
      four channels!   

      We look back and think that’s crazy how we thought TV, radio and newsreels were going to revolutionize everything. That's how people will look back at the field today, thinking that the
      use of social media was the single most important thing to ever happen to PR. But as we see in history, there's bound to be another "next big thing" in PR. But it'll be just another channel to add to the arsenal. 

      Let's face it:  clients still want to be in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. To get there, you have to help make them newsworthy, and position them in a way and in a medium  that improves the way they are seen by their audiences.

      One of the reasons to have the Museum of Public Relations is to teach students and new professionals the foundations of the field. So we consciously set up the Museum to look at an office from a century ago. If you want to write, you have to use a manual typewriter.  To make a
      phone call you use a candlestick phone from 1905, a telegraph, an old-fashioned inbox (with typewritten real press releases, press clips and pamphlets) and old books and old newspapers. So we put some paper in the typewriter and ask them, "how would go about sharing that with
      editors?  And their minds are blown: they can’t understand how you’d share something from a 1905 typewriter to the New York Times newsroom! And back 100 years ago, you couldn’t rely on technology or social media or the internet to reach a newspaper, or to reach your client. You had to do things like pick up the phone and talk to somebody, or you had to do some research on the newspaper beforehand, you might have to get to know the editor first, you’d certainly have to know what they are writing about.

      So now the old-fashioned way is coming back into vogue as clients are realizing - “Why am I paying a 22 year old to set up a Twitter account for me and not trying to get the type of stories our CEO wants us to get?

    • We got to be good friends with Edward Bernays, the father of Public Relations, in late 1985. He had invited us out to dinner at the Waldorf. I brought along  my then-boyfriend Barry (*now husband). Barry had never heard of Bernays before because he was a graphic artist, not a PR guy. I was in awe, I could hardly speak through dinner.  Bernays was talking about the clients he worked for; people like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Enrico Caruso, Eleanor Roosevelt - EVERYBODY who was anybody in the 20th century.  Barry said we've got to start interviewing this guy. 

      So that’s what we started doing.  Starting in 1986, we’d go up 2-3 times a year. Eventually Barry and I got married and had children, who actually grew up thinking Bernays was their grandfather. He loved our kids, absolutely loved them. We have these great videos of him singing lullabies to our children. 

      Bernays’ whole house was like a time capsule. He was practically engaged in every historical moment of the 20th century, like in ZELIG. There’s a 9 year old Bernays sitting at a patio table with his uncle Sigmund Freud...…there’s a picture of Sigmund Freud with Bernays's mother, who was Freud’s sister, with Walter Cronkite…there’s a photo of Bernays with Calvin Coolidge, Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover. The whole house was filled with these 8x10 black and white photos of Bernays with events - like the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty with President Wilson. 

      One day, when he was 101, we asked Bernays, “What are you going to do with all this stuff when you’re no longer living here?”  He said, “Well, I’d like to turn my house into a museum.” And I said “What kind?” And he said “A museum of public relations.” And I said “Well, Eddie, to be frank, your family probably won't want to go along with it." The house was a mansion from 1849, by the way. Then he asked,  “Well, will you make a museum of public relations?”  Despite not knowing the first thing about building a museum from scratch, Barry and I told him “Yes, we’ll make a museum.”   Sometimes, you run into opportunities that seem impossible, but you cannot turn them down, because they are the ones that are meant to change your life.

      After Bernays died, the family invited us to  come up to take  artifacts from the house. Everything that the Library of Congress didn’t want, we took. We walked around from room to room, with the Librarian in charge of his collection from the Library of Congress. She had first dibs, and we took everything that related to public relations. We packed up all the stuff in our truck, drove it back down to the City, and we were going to give the items to PRSA, our trade association, but they didn’t want it. They didn't want the responsibility. It was now up to us to carry out Bernays's wishes, and create a museum starting with his collection.  It became so popular that we were urged to make it a nonprofit, so we could raise money. We  first had to get a charter from the State of New York Department of Education so we could become a

    • Your mission at the Museum of Public Relations is to provide: “A Public Relations Museum and reference library that provides an historical review of the profession through a growing collection that chronicles the evolution of the field.” What are some of the most interesting items in your collection?

    • We have original books from Bernays’ bookshelves, artifacts, photos and documents from Ivy Lee, another father of Public Relations, including his unpublished manuscript from 1928;  one of the lightbulbs that Thomas Edison used as a souvenir during the 1929 Lights Golden Jubilee.  We have a great collection of Women’s PR history, like the press release announcing the formation of the National Organization of Women (NOW) in 1966, written by Muriel Fox and Betty Friedan, as well as a collection of newspapers that were published by women  in the 19th century, promoting voting rights. 

      In fact, we are holding our third annual  “PR women Who Changed History” event on March 7. We'll be exhibiting our artifacts of women’s PR history, with a mannequin dressed in vintage Calvin Klein 1970's career girl. We also have a tremendous collection of African-Americans in PR history.  At our event on January 30, we talked about them, their history and their work. If we didn’t bring them up now, their legacy would be gone. We provide a connection today for diverse students and young professionals with the industry, because in the textbooks on
      Public Relations, you only see white men. You never see African-Americans, female practitioners, Latinx. I think that's our greatest achievement: helping diverse students feel a deeper connection to the industry.

    • I think we’ve had some surprises in rummaging through people’s archives. When we were rummaging through the archives of Ivy Lee, we found this looseleaf that was typed by Ivy Lee in 1928 of a book he intended to publish and never did. That was one of our very big
      surprises - he never published a book, but he did write a book! We decided to publish it for him, 90 years later. That was one book that was never printed, but most of the books we’ve printed are original.

      Ofield Dukes is a PR pioneer, and there was 2 mentees of his who had access to his autobiography that he never finished due to passing, so we took the autobiography, edited it, and published it, the only book about him that exists as a Black PR practitioner last year. It’s called “Ofield: Autobiography of a Public Relations Man.” We have another book we did this past year called “Diverse Voices” where we interviewed 43 diverse leaders in PR and wrote firsthand accounts of their lives. And that’s been given to schools across the country. And it has
      representation from LGBT, Native-American, Asian, Black and Latinx business leaders. We have another book that’s been out of print since 1966, the biography of Ivy Lee, called “Courtier to the Crowd,” and because it was so out of print we made a 50th anniversary edition of the

    • The Museum of Public Relations is the only museum (to my knowledge) housed inside a WeWork. How do students and visitors get to interact with your space?

    • Well, we can’t fit more than a few people in the space itself, so we do presentations in the local WeWork Classroom at 85 Broad Street, Room 27F, and we can put artifacts on display on the table, with archival gloves to wear. We call it “hands on history.” We have a group every year coming from the London College of Communication. We had a bus come in from the University of Rhode Island. People have traveled in recently from Whitworth University in Washington State. For a lot of schools, they are sending groups to New York for a wide variety of reasons, but they are including the Museum of Public Relations in their itinerary. We had a group of Syracuse University last week. And I also travel out, bringing items with me, doing traveling exhibits, and talking about the history. In order to come visit, we request people set up appointments in advance - we’ve had people walk in off the street thanks to Google Maps, and sometimes we can’t accommodate it due to having classes or conflicts, but as much as possible we try to accommodate visitors. Last week we had a researcher from France who was looking all over the world for a particular book about the beginning of banking PR in the 1930’s. We think only three copies of this book exist in the world. And we had that book. So this researcher was so happy he finally found it. We have 600 old books, so most people can find what they are looking for if they are a PR researcher. And kids love to pretend that it’s 1919 and they have to figure out how to work for their client; “how do I get my client’s story out there?” And you realize - I need an idea, a captivating idea, and it all comes down to creating that big idea!

      You can request a visit to the Museum of PR on our website -

    • A bigger space, and being able to afford a curator! And also setting up museums across the world. We are the only place where people can donate their PR archives. If they are moving offices or they pass away, people send us files and items from their archives. We are very appreciative of what people send us - books that are coming out, for instance. We love the old stuff, please keep it coming, but as the museum gets known, we are now housing bigger and bigger collections of people, and we want to include as many of these visitors as possible. It
      is so thrilling for students and young professionals to see the artifacts from these very famous and influential people. Right now, with all the stuff we have in our annex and at Baruch College and what we’re about to accept, we could use a space at WeWork for 20 people!

    • Even if you’re not in New York City, you can log in on our social media - our Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Our posts are indicative of the way we think about Public Relations. They are all about great women in PR history this month. So our content is very educational, it’s used in classrooms, and hopefully you sign up to get our posts to learn things you may have never known before about the space. Our events are all live-streamed so people can learn from amazing panels we have, and all our videos are archived on our website as well. And we are a 501(c)3, so any donation you make, whether materials or funds, is a tax write-off.