Efforts to solve the problem of human relations has been called by such names as “human relations,” “labor relations,” “industrial relations,” and “personal relations.” Out of this confusion of terminology describing attempts to improve human relations has emerged the term “public relations.” Public relations in its broadest sense involves the development of attitudes and understandings in people that will cause them to reconcile their views with those of other persons with whom they come in contact. Here, it is confined to its emergence as a new philosophy of management which places the interests of people first in all matters pertaining to the conduct of an industrial, commercial or nonprofit organization.
A New Philosophy of Management
Less than 100 years ago, the proprietor of a small business knew intimately the people who worked for her. However, as the business grew and as the number of employees increased, the once close, friendly relationship between worker and employer disappeared. The employer bagan to look on her workers merely as so much machinery or equipment essential to the operation
of the business. Employees, as a consequence, took a similar disinterest in their employer and began to look on the company as a soulless corporation with no personal interest in the workers and concerned only with exploiting its people. The same changes in relations between employer and employee have been occurring in the relations between producers and consumers. In her relations with other groups of people, the business manager is experiencing ever-increasing antipathy. Management’s relations with its stockholders have been no more congenial than with employees, customers, and suppliers. In her relations with employees, suppliers and customers, the manufacturer or merchant has arrived at the unenviable position of a hostile adversary of the people on whom she depends for production, patronage and profits.
Faced with this serious business relations problem, industry has been undergoing grave self-examination and frankly recognizing policies and practices which have been responsible for public approval. As a result of this candid and thorough inventory-taking, a new philosophy of management has emerged, which places the interests of people first in all matters pertaining to the conduct of a business. This new philosophy conceives that a business must be operated and directed to serve the interests of all segments of the public: employees, customers, stockholders, supplies and the community.
Modern public relations calls for a revolution in business thinking, a social concept of management. Publiic opinion expects the corporation to assume its portion of public responsibility, and to conduct itsd affairs in accordance with accepted moral values. This philosophy is expressed by Paul Garrett, former public relations director of General Motors Corporation, as follows: “Public relations is a fundamental attitude of mind, a philosophy of management, which deliberately and with enlightened selfishness places the broad interest of the public in every decision affecting the operation of the business.
Management must accept its social responsibility if public relations is to be effective. Leaders of business must see that their function is to produce satisfaction for people. Unless a business has a social conscience which permeates its whole organization, its public relations can be little more than empty words. Management’s obligation is to create conditions within the business which are conducive to social wellbeing and then aggressively to sell them to the public just as it manufactures and merchandises its products and services.
Essentials of Public Relations
There are basically three essentials in this new conception of public relations: serving the public’s interests, maintaining good communications, having good corporate morals and manners. The public interest must be served. The interests of each segment of the public in which a business has relations differ widely, but all are similar in that they are selfish interests. Employees are interested in the company for which they work as a source of fair wages, good working conditions, opportunity for advancement, recognition and stable employment. These are all selfish interests as far as employees are concerned, and the employees’ regard for the company may be measured by the manner in which their selfish interests are served.
Customers, on the other hand, have quite different interests. They are interested in the company as a good source of products or services which represent a sound value at a fair price. They are interested in a stable source of supply, capable of rendering continuous goods and services. Stockholders are interested in a company which pays adequate returns on their investments. They are selfishly concerned that a business in which they invested their savings pays dividends and operates profitably. Suppliers of finished merchandise, parts or raw materials, are interested in equitable and fair relations with customers who buy their products. The community in which a manufacturer or merchant does business is chiefly interested in her business as a good neighbor, a contributor to community welfare, a participator in local welfare agencies, a defender of good government and a taxpayer. To be effective, public relations necessarily involves satisfying the particular interests of the various publics who are often in conflict with one another. No company can satisfy the special interests of one group of its public at the expense of another, if good public relations are to be maintained. The benefits to each segment of a business public must be balanced out, if interests of all groups are to be served equitably.
The second essential of public relations is that a business establishes and maintains good communications with its publics. Not only must business first serve the interests of its publics by providing essential benefits, but these publics must also be told how business is attempting to provide balanced benefits to its employees, stockholders, customers and the community. The goodwill and support of each segment of the public depends on its knowledge of how and why business is working in its interests. Employees and customers must be told not only what the individual business is doing for them but also what our economic system of individual incentive means to them in terms of higher standards of living, improved working conditions and happier, fuller lives.
Having good corporate morals and manners is the third essential of public relations. Although a sound business philosophy of serving the public interests and providing benefits to its various segments is fundamental to good public relations, good morals and manners and a friendly attitude toward the public by every individual connected with the business is equally important in winning the goodwill of neighbors, customers, suppliers and the general public. Public-spirited policies and social consciousness mean little without a pleasing corporate personality expressed through the friendly interest of the people associated with a business. Manners and morals are inseparably linked with the company with which they are associated. The public expects business to behave exactly as a good neighbor and a good friend. Just as morals, manners, thoughtfulness, and consideration make friends for individuals, the same attitude toward neighbors, customers, and the public makes friends for business organizations.
What Public Relations Is Not
Because public relations as understood today is a relatively new activity, there are many misconceptions concerning its nature and function. Attempts to define it have ranged from calling it an art and science to the process of communication to the actual media used in advertising or promoting. Sound public relations is not a temporary or transitory activity. People do not improve their relations with other people in a few days, weeks, or even years. Good public relations, like making friends, is a result of gradual development in which casual acquaintance slowly ripens into friendship through many acts of courtesy and helpfulness. It takes time to make good business friends, just as it does to win lasting personal friends; but the process is identical.
In a sense, public relations is not a specialized function of business like production, finance, sales or purchasing. Rather, it is an activity which runs through each of these functions as a fundamental operating philosophy and as the basis of all production, finance, and sales policies. Public relations is not a substitute for good business management or a cure-all for business ills. Often public relations is used as a defensive measure to cover up mistakes of management: selfishness, greed, and antagonism of customers, stockholders, suppliers, and the community. No amount of press agent work, lobbying, or sensational publicity can win public favor for a business whose public acts and policies are unsound. Public relations is not merely press agents. To some people, public relations means merely publicity. To others, it is legislative lobbying. And many people wonder what the difference is between public relations and advertising. Advertising in the usual sense is the use of paid space in newspapers, magazines, and television for the selling of products or services. Public relations as a function differs basically in that it is designed mainly to promote understanding and public acceptance of an idea or cause. Public relations employs many techniques, one of which is advertising, whereby the public relations message can be placed before the desired audiences in exactly the desired phraseology.
Publicity includes information which is accepted and disseminated by any medium without cost to the beneficiary. In a sense, publicity may be considered information which cannot be purchased. Publicity is not public relations, but an important tool which may be used to promote the sale of products and services. Public relations that distorts facts, misrepresents, or misleads is not worthy of the name. Public relations must be candid, open, and above all honest in its relations with the public.
The Development of Public Relations
As public relations is employed today by progressive business and social organizations, it has been a development of the present century. It had its beginnings in the first decade of this century, when business was subjcted to condemnation by leaders in government and popular writers. The attacks on business in the early years of the century were in many cases justified in the light of prevailing rapacity and selfishness which characterized business practice at that time. Business operations were clouded in secrecy and business management exploited labor and consumers. As a result of this widespread condemnation of business, industry was put on the defensive. It began to take account of its acts and to recognize that the favorable opinion of the public was essential to its prosperity. Business slowly began to abandon its policy of strict secrecy concerning its operations. Frankness and honesty replaced underhanded trickery in dealing with customers, stovkholders and employyees.
The depression of the 1930s brought another wave of criticism of industry and the “New Deal” of Franklin D. Roosevelt ushered in a period of social reform characterized by condemnation of business as “economic royalists”. Government, through enactment of legislation, forced business to provide benefits to the employee public in the form of workers’ compensation, minimum wage, collective bargaining, and social security. The investor public, “smarting” under the stock debacle of the ’30s, turned to government for protection from corporate financial manipulations. In the struggle between government and business, the public looked to the state to protect its interests, and the business lost the authority and respect because of this. As a result, business leaders turned increasingly to public relations for help in fighting against Roosevelt’s biting criticisms and legislative reforms. There was a marked trend away from occasional and defensive efforts and toward more positive and continuous programs created by newly established departments. The speculator accomplishments of industry in World War II, plus the recognition by business of the importance of favorable public opinion, have resulted in a more tolerant public attitude toward industry. Spurred by the government subsidy, excess, profits, tax deductions, and a dearth of public relations advertising during the war, the result is that the public is now better informed and more favorably disposed toward industry than it has been for many years.
Future of Public Relations
The significant change in attitude of business toward the public indicates that a new era in public relations is in the making. The growth of public opinion research is also indicative of the importance business places on the views of the person in the street and the worker at the bench in formulating business policies and actions. The broadened scope of public relations beyond the original functions of publicity and press relations into specialized programs in industry and in the professional and social relations fields emphasizes the fact that public relations is an essential activity in all areas of our social and economic life. The high place which public relations occupies in the management of leading business organizations is further evidence of its growing importance. The heads of many progressive businesses now consider themselves primarily public relations officers, with the public attitude one of their major concerns.
The Broadway Hale Stores, Inc. has a highly centralized organizational structure. So all the planning aspects of public relations are handled at the main office in Los Angeles. The branches’ two main duties are to edit the final copy and to carry out the public relations programs drawn up at the main office. One of the editors, Mr. Zeitmann, is one of the three divisional sales managers at the Broadway Store at Los Altos Shopping Center. His duties are such that he is the in-store merchandiser of the central buying organization, handling responsibilities for his various areas: fashion accessories, women’s and children’s shoes; men’s and boys’ wear; and men’s furnishings.
Most of the employee relations’ aspects of public relations is handled by the training supervisor, who is under the personnel manager of the department store. The training supervisor’s responsibilities are many and varied: (1) He sets up orientation sessions for sales personnel when new products are introduced, (2) He hires outstanding high school students who qualify for the store’s Key-men Club and Hi-men Club to work on Saturdays, (3) During the Easter holidays, he administers a kaleidoscope in which high school students compete for awards on music ability, acting and modeling, (4) Through the training supervisor, open demonstrations are given on the floor on make-up, dress, poise and posture, (5) He hosts the employee annual Christmas party with skits and games, (6) In July, outstanding surfers will be in the store to demonstrate surfing techniques.
Through all these activities, the Broadway has sought to project itself as a fashion-conscious department store, offering top quality merchandise at fairly traded prices. The management thinks it has gained a reputation for being fair and maintaining equitable dealings with the public. But the Broadway Hale Stores, Inc. is not content to rest on its laurels. Research opinion polls are being constantly conducted. Store customers are being asked questions such as “What do you like about the store? Do you have any inprovement?” These surveys revealed that 95 percent of the customers are satisfied with the service. Douglas Aircraft
The Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc. is one of the larger manufacturers of aircraft, has some missile business and is working on the S-IV stage of project Saturn. Military aircraft includes the Navy A4D Skyhawk high-speed carrier-case attack bomber. The company is a major producer of commercial aircraft with its DC-8, DC-8F passenger cargo plane and the DC-9, a short-range passenger jet. Military volume constituted a major portion of 1965 sales. Douglas is the prime contractor for the manned orbiting laboratory. The corporate offices are in Santa Monica, California. The Aircraft Group has its headquarters at Long Beach, California, and the Missile and Space Group is located at Huntington Beach. Tulsa, Oklahoma is the site of the Aircraft Modification Division.
The promotional aspects of Douglas Aircraft are handled at the main office in Santa Monica. Management thinks that there is no reason for promotional items on the divisional level. F.P. Tyler is Public Relations Director of the Aircraft Division in Long Beach. His public relations department stresses active participation in service clubs and civic organizations for its employees. Douglas’ employees are on the board of directors of Port Ambassadors, Lakewood Pan American Festival Association, Industrial Business Association. Another is vice president of the Rotary Club. The spouses of the employees are also active. Many participate in the Chamber of Commerce. Douglas also sponsors 12 Little League teams in the Long Beach area. It has employees on the Boy Scouts Council in Long Beach. Douglas’ Speakers Bureau (under the Public Relations Director) provides programs for service clubs and civic organizations.
Although the Aircraft Division of Douglas has no formal public relations program, there is a goal: to integrate Douglas in the community and inform the community about what is going on in the Douglas complex. This is does throgh facts and figures. The public relations approach is mainly a “soft-sell” way of promoting Douglas to the community. There is no need to sell people in Long Beach a plane. But Douglas does need the support of the people. That is why the only advertising that is done is for technicians. There is a serious shortage of qualified personnel at Douglas Aircraft because of its rapid growth and expansion in recent years. Employee relations is handled by the Industrial Relations Department through the employee’s auxiliary services committee. They promote such things as golf tournaments, bowling leagues, hunting shoots, company picnics and a Disneyland Night.
City of Long Beach
During the 1950s, the city of Long Beach suffered one of the strangest phenomena in the history of American land subsidence: earth shrinkage, centering in the city’s tideland oil field, causing physical damage totalling $90 million, forcing some industries to leave the community and discouraging new investment in the community. Although the problem was corrected in 1960, Long Beach still retained the image of California’s sinking city.
In 1964, a large-scale public information, advertising and promotion program was launched, set up so as to project a favorable picture of the city, and thereby encourage tourism and a tract investment in Long Beach. The city organized a non-profit corporation called Long Beach Promotion, Inc., managed and staffed by professional public relations personnel, with representatives of 21 local organizations serving on the board of directors. Its mission was to operate a news bureau and advertise Long Beach as a good place to live, work, play, conduct business and invest in the future.
The News Bureau working together with Mr. Harry Fulton, special assistant to the city manager, distributes news, information, and photos to newspapers, radio and television, and
trade publications throughout the world. Originality of the public relations programs was exemplified by the film “Le Petite Mariner,” shown on national television. The central idea was that of exploring the city and port of Long Beach through the eyes of a little boy in a sailboat. As a result of the ads, various brochures, news releases, and information material, the “sinking city” image of Long Beach is fast disappearing. Without referring to the former problem in the nationwide public relations program, Long Beach is gaining recognition as a progressive, well balanced international city, which is successfully combining recreation, tourism, and conventions with world trade and industrial development to establish a solid economic base.
Analysis of the Institutional Approach
It appears that the Broadway Store’s attempts at public relations are no more than promotional gimmicks to get people inside the store and purchase its products. Its employee relations program under the personnel department does fall into the public relations field, though. The public relations program of the city of Long Beach is nothing more than press-agentry. Although the Aircraft division of Douglas at Long Beach
has no formal public relations program, its actvities come the closest to being real public relations. Through its participation in local civic activities and employees relations program, it has taken the initiative and accepted its social responsibility.