5 PR Campaigns that Changed the USA

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Some public relations campaigns are fantastic and make companies a lot of money. However, there are some campaigns that literally change the world! Whether their creators knew it at the time or not, these five examples influenced the world we live in today in many ways.

1. Keep America Beautiful

A careless traveler drops a piece of trash. A nearby Native American looks upon it in sadness. A single tear drops.

Everyone has seen this campaign, either the original or in the countless parodies and homages that have popped up since. It came from the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign, which started in 1953. There’s no telling where the “green” movement of today would be without this commercial which catalyzed it so many years ago!

2. Smokey the Bear

Only you can prevent forest fires! Smokey the Bear pleaded with campers and nature lovers everywhere to watch their campfires and matches before they ruined all the forests of the world. This campaign was created during World War 2 when most men were overseas fighting and weren’t around to help fight any fires in the West that might spring up. According to the Ad Council, Smokey the Bear is recognized by 95% of adults and 77% of children in the U.S.!

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3. Ivy Lee

When a train crashed into the waters of Atlantic City, killing 53 people in 1906, Ivy Lee put out what is considered to be the world’s first press release. He persuaded the operating company of the train, the Pennsylvania Railroad, to disclose the facts of the case before anyone else did. This is now standard operating procedure for practically every company in the world.

4. Bacon and Eggs

Did you know that bacon and eggs weren’t always the quintessential breakfast foods? It wasn’t until the 1920s and Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, was tasked with selling the foods to the public. He put together a survey of doctors where they detailed the benefits of bacon and eggs for breakfast. This survey was used to convince…more doctors! They in turn recommended it to their patients. If you’ve ever seen a commercial that claimed “6 out of 7 doctors approve,” you have Bernays to thank.

5. I <3 NY

Hey, we all love New York City, right? But we didn’t all love it until the 1970s when Milton Glaser designed the famous logo that’s all over t-shirts everywhere. The Big Apple was actually on a downslide into poverty before the campaign was designed, and the simple little logo is credited with keeping the city from totally going under. In fact, it’s often cited as being one of the most efficient repositioning campaigns of all time!

Did I goof? What additional PR campaigns belong on this list? Share below.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/pr-checklist/

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I’d have to add the 1970’s(?) Coke “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” campaign to the list. How long were people singing that after it aired? It resonated for a long time and set Coke in the upper echelon of viral campaign platforms.


Apple’s 1984 Macintosh commercial set the precedent and changed the face of the modern computer!


Just FYI – It’s Smokey Bear, not Smokey THE Bear. Remember the PSA? It’s not Easter THE Bunny or Santa THE Claus, and Smokey doesn’t have a middle name, either. It’s Smokey Bear.



You’re right (I had to check) but since I was a little boy, he’s always been Smokey the Bear to me (and looking online, it appears I’m not alone). Forgive me.

I also loved Woodsy Owl (or is that Woodsy THE Owl). 🙂 “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute”


I think the Smokey Bear song messed us all up as kids: “Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear, howling and a prowling and a sniffing at the air…he can spot a fire, before it starts to flame, that’s why we call him Smokey, that is how he got his name…”



Great article; I’m interested in hearing about global PR campaigns; ones that had global impact…I’m afraid I can’t think of a one…anybody else?


I believe you are confusing PR and advertising campaigns. Good discussion and examples though. There is some obvious crossover. Thanks


The handling of the Johnson & Johnson, Tylenol crisis is a big one. The PR campaign set precedents with its triple seal tamper resistant packaging


I am agree with Ashley, but I want to add the campaign “Torches of freedom”, Edward Bernays, 1929. It was original motto, creative, big visibility…


Did you goof? Yes. Most aren’t relevant to the rest of the world. Maybe change the title to read “Campaigns that changed America”.


Thanks Sam. Point taken and I think I will revise accordingly.



One that still sticks with me to this day —

2 all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickle, onion on a sesame seed bun.


I didn’t realize the I <3 NY (and now I <3 Anywhere) phenomenon was a strategic public relations campaign. Pretty cool info, thanks! I wonder what modern PR campaigns we will look back on as instrumental to the future of public relations?


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