Looking back on 75 eventful years
Günter Bentele was born on March 24, 1948 in Heimenkirch/Allgäu. He studied German literature/linguistics, sociology, political science, journalism and philosophy in Munich and Berlin. In 1982, he received his doctorate from the Free University of Berlin, and a second dcotorate (habilitation) in 1989 with a thesis on "Objectivity and Credibility of the Media."
In the same year, he was offered his first professorship in communication studies with a focus on journalism at the Otto Friedrich University in Bamberg, where he was already conducting research projects in the field of public relations (PR) and offering courses on the subject. After only four years, he moved on to Saxony: In 1994, Bentele was appointed as the first chair profssor of Public Relations/PR in Germany. Here, he first established a major in Public Relations/PR within the communication and media studies program and later a master's degree program in Communication Management at the Institute for Communication and Media Studies. He taught and researched in Leipzig until his retirement in 2014. With his work, Günter Bentele significantly shaped the development of PR research and PR science, but also the entire professional field in the country.
Apart from this, he acted as institute director and dean at Leipzig University, as president of the German Association for Communication Science (DGPuK), as member and chairman of the German Council for Public Relations (DRPR) – an ethics council for the field –, as board member and president of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA), head of the award committess for the Albert Oeckl Science Award. He was elected as "Professor of the year 2007" in GErmany and is well-known as author and editor of more than 50 books, and more than 300 professional articles, encyclopedia articles and much more.
Günter Bentele is still committed to the exchange between academia and practice – whether as Vice Chairman of the Günter Thiele Foundation for Communication and Management, as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Academic Society for Corporate Management & Communication or as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig.
For some years now, his heart has been beating especially for historical PR research. He built up the German Online Museum for Public Relations (www.pr-museum.de), which conveys the history of PR in Germany. In 2021, together with Felix Krebber (Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences), he founded the Center for History & Corporate Communication – a think tank for historical PR research and corporate history communication.
Günter Bentele lives with his family in Berlin. He has two grown-up children and is the proud grandfather of four grandchildren.
Five personal questions for Günter Bentele:
What inspired you to pursue an academic career in public relations?
I have always been attracted to penetrating topics and explaining them with the help of empirical studies or theories. Since my first exam, I have considered myself a communication scientist. Strategic communication, the planning and evaluation processes of this part of public communication, have always interested me more than journalism. Journalistic writing was considered by many at the time to be an innate skill that you have or you don't have. This ideology was suspect to me. Communication studies theories helped me explain and often solve communication problems. And I also enjoyed teaching.
What were the biggest challenges you faced during your career?
A recurring challenge for me were editorial deadlines – the challenge of finishing an essay, book, or project on time. In the beginning, I worked through many a night driving my team or feeding them pizza. Later, more routine developed and I was able to meet those challenges with better planning.
What are you most proud of?
I am a child of a working-class family for whom an academic career was not really intended. Nevertheless, I was allowed to head the first chair for public relations in Germany and was able to help found this new subject through my scientific work. I have just received confirmation from the field that my academic work and my commitment to the German Council for Public Relations (DRPR) have improved the reputation of the profession. And I am very pleased that I have been able to draw attention to the historical origins and development of PR and corporate communications through "pr-museum.de".
What changes have you observed over the past decades?
Of course, there are many small changes. But the digitization of communication that I have observed in recent years can be compared to the development of letterpress printing in the 15th century or telegraphy in the 19th century. It's also exciting to observe the increasing professionalization of the communications industry.
What would you recommend to young people who want to pursue a career in public relations?
I would advise them not to just seek public attention, but to do sound, good quality, ethical work. This will get you further than some imposing campaigns that can quickly "fizzle out." In rock music there is a distinction between two types of musicians – the "sweaters" and the "flashers". In music and in science, I have always counted myself more among the "sweaters" and smiled at the "flashers".