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At the Ball Giclee Print

At the Ball by Auguste Francois Gorguet

As I pour over tomes and professional literature on the public relations, marketing and advertising industry, I am discovering new names for old concepts. The definition of public relations is the creating, elevating and protecting a reputation. In Modern parlance we refer to such professional as a Publicist. The Victorian era called them Mothers.

A Publicist is a strategist; always out to conquer the end game. A Victorian Mother of comfortable means employed the exact same skills. Depending on your perception, she used her children as pawns or had their best interest at heart. “The best” meant financial status; such status ensuring privileges and opportunity. If the children were happy, that was just a bonus. Opportunity begets opportunity, after all. The end game was financial wealth whether by marriage or honest toil (although this last point is a bit subjective). Appearance, dress, education, etiquette, the right parties, their social circle, and the acquisition of status symbols all lead to wealth if a Mother played her cards correctly.

Some Moderns view this as devious social climbing and putting on airs. Others continue to play the game like a chess board; considering they are giving their children the best opportunity to get ahead in life. Which again, is synonymous with wealth. In contrast to the stereotypical calculating Victorian Mother, Moderns place more emphasis on the children’s mental well being. The Victorians are not depicted as being so sentimental. Both then and now, girls bare the burnt  of these manipulations but male children are not spared the influences of power hungry parents bent on bragging rights (or simply “providing them opportunities.”) These children perpetuated the Family Publicist ideal, instructing their own children in the art, with noticeable differences that pervade each generation. They all wanted to protect the reputation of the family name and image. Some call it shallow, others deem it necessary; regardless, the skills and the parental teaching there of, have diminished greatly in present day.

What do you think? Is Personal Branding any different? What would Mrs. Astor or Mrs. Vanderbilt do?