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Press agent

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The press agent or publicity model of public relations is a style of one-way communication typically characterized by hype and emotion, rather than a methodical, reasoned presentation of facts.

The press agent was the precursor of the modern public relations consultant, but lacking the underpinnings of any professional standards of ethics and conduct, often lapsed into pure propaganda.

The American showman P.T. Barnum typified this model in the late 19th Century, which was widespread. Modern promoters of entertainment events, such as boxing promoter Don King carry on this tradition of the press agent.

However, around the turn of the last century, press agents such as Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays saw that building credibility with the media through rigorous attention to facts and minimizing hype was far more effective. They and others began laying the groundwork that evolved the press agent into a credible public relations consultant.

By the late 1920s, the era of the press agent has come to a close. So much had the reputation of the press agent fallen into disrepute that in 1928, Time Magazine ran a short, unflattering story on the press agent, noting one calling one who was promoting two female Siamese twins in a Coney Island freak show: a fat and smirking Broadwayfarer who was known to be an exploiter of monstrosity.

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