A Brief History

The Religion Communicators Council (RCC) has been promoting faith perspectives in public discourse since 1929. The council is the oldest public relations professional organization in the United States. The council today has more than 400 members across the United States. They work in print and electronic communication, advertising, and public relations. Originally an all-Protestant organization, the council now has members representing Bahá'í, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faith communities.

Twenty-nine charter members formed the Religious Publicity Council Nov. 27, 1929. They wanted to encourage more coverage of church news in newspapers and magazines. Charter members represented six mainline Protestant Christian denominations, the YMCA, the YWCA, Girl's Friendly Society, Federal Council of Churches and World Alliance for International Friendship Through the Churches. The original constitution said the organization was "to bring together religious publicity representatives for interchange of ideas and experiences, conference on common problems, and such cooperative efforts as may develop." At the first meeting members endorsed paid ads for religious purposes and the appointment of local church publicity directors. The council published its first membership director and religious publicity manual in 1930.

The organization became the National Religious Publicity Council in 1949, the Religious Public Relations Council in 1963 and the Religion Communicators Council in 1998. Membership was opened to communicators in all Christian communions, not just Protestants, in 1967. The council began accepting members from all faith groups in 1972.

In 1947 the council chartered its first local chapter in Washington, D.C. The council has had local chapters in at least 24 U.S. cities since then as well as one chapter in Canada. Today the council has a number of active local chapters across the U.S.

One constant council mission has been to promote excellence in secular coverage of faith topics. Since 1949, the council has given annual Awards of Merit for outstanding presentations of religious issues, values and themes in secular media. In 1985 the Awards of Merit became the Wilbur Awards. They were named for Marvin C. Wilbur, a religion public relations pioneer and longtime council leader.

The council has encouraged ethical practices among members since its early days. In 1955 members adopted Professional Aims for Religious Public Relations Personnel, the organization's first code of ethics. Those aims were revised in 1970. From 1978 to 1988 the council, as part of the North American Public Relations Council, helped develop a Uniform Code Ethics for all member public relations organizations. In 2006 council members adopted the current Guidelines for Ethical Conduct.

Since 1967, the council has recognized excellence in communication practice by members through the annual DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards. Paul Hinkhouse was a charter member of the council. He left the Presbyterian Church Board of Foreign Missions in 1933 to go into the lithography business in New York with Victor DeRose. When Hinkhouse died in 1967, DeRose endowed the award to honor his longtime partner. After DeRose, an honorary council member since 1970, died in 1975, his name was added to the award.

Since 2001, the council has been a participating organization in the Universal Accreditation Board, the credentialing agency for the public relations industry. RCC members can demonstrate their knowledge and skills in strategic communication by becoming Accredited in Public Relations.

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