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The Power Of Effective Public Relations Media Essay


As the use of publicity gained increased acceptance, the first publicity agency, known as the Publicity Bureau, was established in Boston in 1900. Harvard College was its most prestigious client. George F. Parker and Ivy Ledbetter Lee opened a publicity office in New York City in 1905. Parker continued to work in political public relations, but Lee went on to become an advisor and counselor to prominent individuals and major industrial enterprises. He and other public relations pioneer are discussed shortly, but first some mention should be made of several business and political leaders who thoroughly understood the power of effective public relations.

Samuel Insull

At the corporate level, the Chicago Edison Company broke new ground in public relations techniques under the skillful leadership of its president, Samuel Insull. Well aware of the special need for a public utility to maintain a sound relationship with its customers, Insull created a monthly customer magazine, issued a constant stream of news releases, and even used films for public relations purposes. In 1912, he started the "bill stuffer" by inserting company information into customer bills - a technique used by many utinilities today. By the 1920s, Insull was one of the country's foremost power brokers, controlling utilities in 5,000 towns and 32 states. He did much to expand the market for electricity by promoting electrical appliances with the theme that it liberated women from household drudgery.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford was America's first major industrialist, and he was among the first to use two basic public relations concepts. The first was the notion of positioning, the idea that credit and publicity always go to those who do something first. The second idea was being accessible to the press. Joseph Epstein, author of Ambition, says, "He may have been an even greater publicist that mechanic"

In 1900, Ford obtained coverage of the prototype Model T by demonstrating it to a reporter from the Detroit Tribune. By 1903, Ford achieved widespread publicity by racing his cars - a practice still used by today's automakers. Ford also positioned himself as the champion of the common man and was the first automaker to envision that a car should be affordable to everyone. He garnered further publicity and became the hero of working men and women by bring the first automaker to double his worker's wages to five $5 per day.

Ford became a household name because he was willing to be interviewed by the press on almost any subject. A populist by nature, he once said, "Business is a service, not a bonanza, " an idea reiterated by many of today's top corporate executives who believe in what is now called corporate social responsibility (CSR).

His reputation, toward the end of his life, was somewhat tarnished when he strongly opposed unionization of his plants and employed toughs to break up attempts to organize worker.

Teddy Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) was a master at promoting and publicizing his pet projects. He was the first president to make extensive use of news conferences and press interviews to drum up public support when Congress was often critical or nonsupportive. He was an ardent conservationist and knew the publicity value of the presidential tour. For example, he took a large group of reporters and photographers to see the wonders of Yosemite National Park as a way of generating favorable press coverage and public support for the creation of additional national forests and national parks. While president, Roosevelt set aside 150 million acres for public recreational use and essentially became the " father" of the American conservation movement.

Roosevelt's nickname was "Teddy," which he didn't particularly like, but it did endear him to the public. Part of Roosevelt's legacy was that the Teddy Bear was named after him because he enjoyed bear hunting. On one such trip, accompanied by reporters, he spared a small bear and the reporter wrote about it. A toymaker saw the story and began to make and market "Teddy" bears in recognition of the president's humane gesture. Another story, perhaps more accurate, is that the New York Times used his nickname in a humorous poem about two bears named Teddy B and Teddy G, which then became the names of two bears in the Bronx Zoo. Their popularity with the public caused toy manufacturers to market toy bears as teddy bears, which also increased Roosevelt's popularity; he's probably the only U.S. president to have a stuffed animal named after him, which survive to this day.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt apprarently took notes from Teddy. His supporters organized nationwide birthday balls in 1934 to celebrate his birthday and raiser funds for infantile paralysis research. This led to the creation of the March of Dimes. The campaign by Carl Byoir & Associates, a leading public relations firm at the time, orchestrated 6,000 events in 3,600 communities and raised more than 1 million.

Ivy Lee The First Public Relations Counsel

The combination of stubborn management attitudes and improper actions, labor strife, and widespread public criticism produced the first public relations counselor, Ivy Ledbetter Lee. Although, as previously noted, the Princeton graduate and former business journalist for New York Times, New York World, and the New York American began as a publicist, he shortly expanded that role to become the first public relations counsel.

When Lee opened his public relations firm, Parker and Lee, in 1905, he issued a declaration of principles that signaled a new model of public relations practice: public information. Lee's emphasis was on the dissemination of truthful, accurate information rather than the distortion, hype, and exaggerations of press agentry.

One of Lee's first clients was the Anthracite Coal Roads and Mines Company. He was retained to help articulate the owner's position during a strike by its workers. Also, in 1906, Lee was retained by the Pennsylvania Railroad as a "public counselor" to handle media relations. His first task was to convince management that the policy of operating in secret and refusing to talk with the press, typical of many large corporations at the time,was a poor strategy for fostering goodwill and public understanding. When the next rail accident occurred, Lee provided press facilities, issued what is claimed to be the first news release of the modern age, and took reporters to the accident site. Although such action appeared to the conservative railroad directors to be reckless indiscretion, they were pleasantly surprised that the company received faired press comment than on any previous occasion.

It wasn't long before other railroads also adopted a more open information policy. By 1912, Lee had become the executive assistant to the president of the Pennysylvania Railroad, which Scott Cutlip, in his comprehensive history of public relations, called, "the first known instance of a public relations person being placed at the management level."


George Creel

The public information model that Lee enunciated in his counseling was also used by President Woodrow Wilson to organize a massive public relations effort to unite the nation and to influence world opinion during World War I.

In their book Words That Won the War, James O. Mock and Cedric Larson write: "Mr. Creel assembled a brilliant and talented group of journalist, scholars, press agents, editors, artist, and other manipulators of the symbols of public opinion as America had ever seen united for a single purpose." Among its numerous activities, the Creel Committee persuaded newspaper and magazines to contribute volumes of news and advertising space to encourage Americans to save food and to invest heavily in Liberty Bonds, which were purchased by more than 10 million people. Thousands of businesses set up their own groups of publicity people to expand the effort.

President Wilson accepted Creel's advice that hatred of the Woodrow Germans should be played down and that loyalty and confidence in the government should be emphasized. The committee also publicized the war aims and ideals of Woodrow Wilson - to make the world safe for democracy and to make World War I the war to end all wars. The American Red Cross, operating in cooperation with the Creel Committee, enrolled more than 19 million new members and received more than $400 million in contributions during the period.

This massive publicity effort had a profound effect on the development of public relations by demonstrating the success of these techniques. It also awakened an awareness in Americans of the power of mediated information in changing public attitudes and behavior. This, coupled with postwar analysis of British propaganda devices, resulted in a number of scholarly books and college courses on the subject, including a recent re-assessment of propaganda by international public relations scholars Patricia A. Curtin and T. Kenn Gaither.

1950-2000: Public Relations Comes of Age

During the second half of the 20th century, the practice of public relations became firmly establish as an indispensable part of America's economic, political, and social development.

The booming economy after World War II produced rapid growth in all areas of public relations. Companies opened public relations departments or expanded existing ones. Government staffs increased in size, as did those of nonprofits, such as educational institutions and health and welfare agencies. Television emerged in the early 1950s as a national medium and as a new challenge for public relations expertise. New counseling firms sprang up nationwide.

The growth of the economy was one reason for the expansion of public relations. But there were other factors, too:

Major increase in urban and suburban populations

The growth of a more impersonalizes society represented by big business, big labor, and big government;

Scientific and technological advances, including automation and computerization;

The communications revolution in term of mass media;

Bottomline financial considerations often replacing the more personalized decision making of a previous, more genteel, society

Many citizens felt alienated and bewildered by such rapid change, cut off from the sense of community that characterized the lives of previous generations. They sought power through innumerable pressure groups, focusing on causes such as environmentalism, working conditions, and civil rights. Public opinion, registered through new, more sophisticated methods of polling, became increasingly powerful in opposing or effecting change.

Both physically and psychologically separated from their publics, American business and industry turned increasingly to public relations specialist for audience analysis, strategic planning, issues management, and even the creation of supportive environments for the selling of products and services. Mass media also became more complex and sophisticated, so specialists in media relations who understood how the media worked were also in demand.

By 1950, an estimated 17,000 men and 2,000 women were employed as practitioners in public relations and publicity. Typical of the public relations programs of large corporations at midcentury was that of the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). Heading the operation was a vice president for public relations-advertising, who was aided by an assistant public relations director and advertising manager. Departments included community relations, product publicity, motion pictures and exhibits, employee publications, the news bureau, and speech writing. The Alcoa News magazine was published for employees, and separate publications were published for each of the 20 plants throughout the United States. The company's main broadcast effort was sponsorship of Edward R. Murrow's See It Now television program.

Evolving Practice and Philosophy

The period from 1950 to 2000 marked distinct changes in the practice and philosophy of public relations. To place these changes in context, it's probably prudent to review some of what has been presented so far. First, the 1800s were marked by the press agentry model, which was best represented by the hype and exaggerations of P.T. Barnum and various land developers. By the early 20th century, however, public relations began to reinvent itself along journalistic lines, mainly because former newspaper reporters such as Ivy Lee started to do public relations work and counseling. Cynthia Clark of Boston University picked up the evolution in a succinct review that appeared in the Public Relation Review.

Clark says that before the 1920s, public relations was simply an extension of the journalistic function and was focused on "the dissemination of information or one-way communication models in which the quality of information was important but audience feedback had yet to be fully considered." James Grunig, in his interpretation of the evolutionary models of public relations, called this the public information model of public relations.

In the 1920s, thanks to breakthroughs in social science research, the focus of public relations shifted to the psychological and sociological effects of persuasive communication on target audiences. Both Rex Harlow and Edward Bernays, among others, believed that any campaign should be based on feedback and an analysis of an audience's dispositions and value system so messages could be structured for maximum effect. Grunig labeled this the two-way asymmetric model because it involved scientific persuasion based on the research of the target audience.

The 1960s saw Vietnam War protests, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, interest in women's rights, and a host of other issues. Antibusiness sentiment was high, and corporations adjusted their policies to generate public goodwill and understanding. Thus, the idea of issues management was added to the job description of the public relations manager. This was the first expression of the idea that public relations should be more than simply persuading people that corporate policy was correct. During this period, the idea emerged that perhaps it would be beneficial to have a dialogue with various publics and adapt corporate policy to their particular concerns. Grunig labeled this approach two-way symmetrical communication because there's balance between the organization and its various publics; the organization and the public can influence each other.

The 1970s was an era of reform in the stock market and investor relations. The Texas Gulf Sulfur case changed investor relations forever by establishing the idea that a company must immediately disclose any information that may affect the value of its stock. The field of investor relations boomed.

By the 1980s, the concept that public relations was a management function was in full bloom. The term strategic became a buzzword, and the concept of management by objective (MBO) was heavily endorsed by public relations practitioners as they sought to prove to higher management that public relations did indeed contri

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