Conversations on public relations; Trends and problems in P.R.
Bring it back up again. The next decent time or we're not fulfilling our conversations on public relations relations from Riverside radio. We present the last of four conversations on public relations that Philip Leslie president of a fellow plastic company and editor of the public relations handbook and this is something on this here is Mr. Leslie and his guest discuss the scope of the problems facing the public relations industry. Much like to Leslie's guests on this program Milton fat eyed vice president of the board and company. And Howard Hudson the editor of the quarterly review of public relations and public relations Council on the topic for discussion not problem the implications to our society. Here is Mr. lifelines boy. We know that public relations like almost all other functions isn't both stimulating and Avery acting and the changes that are going on in our society and that we need to help guide and cope with these and anticipate what the needs are going to be. Mr. Chairman I
wonder if you would start by giving us your feeling were they public relations field is in its changing stage today and what we might anticipate is coming ahead of us. Well I think it's in the period of its greatest expansion of the present time. My recollection is the 1960 census showed about 35000 public relations people which is a gross understatement. However the growth between the 60 in the 50 census was 65 percent. And I suspect that there will be an even greater growth shown in the next census. Beyond the next census I think the growth will probably be explosive but the field will broaden the be greater opportunities and more use made of public relations skills. Mr. Hudson what your feeling about what's behind this growth and demand for people with skills and help in this area. Well I think it's just a matter of the way our whole society is structured. There is there's nothing
in one sense knew about public relations that goes back from the beginning of time and many people naturally understand what public relations is and know how to behave in a public relations way. But now that we have a very complicated social and economic structure you have to have a place for it just as you have places for Brother kinds of things. The president of the company may be himself very good at public relations or he may be a lawyer but he certainly doesn't perform those functions himself. He's a special staff kind of a function. While in the growing complexity and and systemization of all of our functions well as well as we know all the people who manage organizations from the government the labor unions corporations universities and everything else have to deal with a wide range of things and a lot of integrate them and so forth. This is having its effect on the
requirements of public relations people too. I can certainly in my judgment. In the old days when it was considered perfectly sufficient for someone in public relations and know how to handle communications usually just publicity would certainly come to the point where many more things than that are involved and if for instance in your situation no but Borden. Just an indication of the scope of what the public relations function in a corporation that Sarte would be a good way I think of indicating I read in a structure is Aisha's systemization of public relations. Well I don't think there's anything unique about our organizational setup it's common in corporations. But you would divide your your public into segments. You would have a stockholder in the financial public. You would have the employee public. You would have the consumer public as opposed to the general public the consumers and potential consumers of your products. He would have the communities in which
you operate where you have plants and you would have then the general public. And then there are smaller segments that are peculiar to various institutions were concerned with the American farmer because we buy his products. Other manufacturers of different types would not have an interest in the fiber such as we have. But isn't one of the trends in here I think we're getting to some of the meat of this isn't one of the trends that instead of dealing with these publics individually as publics where more and more are forced to recognize that the public relations of any organisation is going constantly in a related and all of these things have effects on each other and you can't be part mental eyes and and separate them. But what you saying to your customers and your employees affects what the government thinks of your company and your industry and what you say to the farmers in Wisconsin is known to the housewife who buys her milk and Chicago or St. Louis or or many apples and. This is what I mean by systemization enter into relationships of all of these things
become more and more important the complexities become greater and greater. Oh yes well I certainly would agree on that and it's the total effect. It is never possible that people get an impression of any organization or a person just from one thing just from the way it way they see it and so some company might put out a rather crude old fashioned kind of stationery or a note or a form that's obsolete. And this has an effect and unfortunately this is not thought of as public relations and yet I think that's it's part of the whole. Well it all locks together as a crossword puzzle or a double crossed it does. The vertical lines and horizontal lines in all of these segments are allies to parts of the public. I think one of the very important factors in looking ahead in public relations is the very growth of institutions the bigness of them. And it certainly is a phenomenon
not relating to business alone but to education and to government and to all of the other institutions in 89 91. The Borden company had four stockholders and I wasn't a stockholder relations problem. There wasn't a need to communicate to communicate through normal channels of communication. We have 65000 shareholders today. Who. Have an obvious interest in the company and who have to be informed on what the company is doing and what the state of their investment is. Now we're not unique. The University of California has just as many students as we have stockholders and it has the added problem that a good part of the student body is as you might say under one roof and our stockholders are scattered all over the country. The government has grown so large that it too has these vast numbers of people to deal with and this is where I think the need for public relations personnel for
understanding all of the many facets of this problem is very important. And as time goes on the bigger an institution grows the larger its public relations staff was grow. I want to know why don't we go back a step and recognize that despite the great furor about how big our. Government and our industry and our labor unions and our minority groups and so forth are becoming this that this is an inevitable consequence of progress the changes that have been occurring that big things that to be done must be done almost all in all cases by the big organizations that more and more. We are a a society made up of corporate and government and other large institutional bodies that they relationship with the individual is no longer to a small employer he sees every day or the minister who represents religion to him or the town
hall out of the city hall that represents government to him but that the individual is almost always in confrontation with a big faceless anonymous large institution and that bridging the gap between that institution and the individual who feels oppressed by this bigness surrounding him and the inability to get at who is of influence in his life is really what's created this need for public relations we've been talking about. And no one planned it that way I want to plan it that way and no one is ready for it and this of course raises the question are we going to be ready for what the next trends are and us. Howard I'm sure you've given some thought to that. Well I see we've got two big problems we've got on both sides fellow we've we've got problems within public relations. We are going through organizational paying still it's still such a new field we're still figuring out the best ways for education and and we're figuring on professionalization and I hope that Milton Friedman will say something on that with the PRSA accreditation which is a step forward. But on the other side
we've got a big job with our own public relations naturally. I suppose any of us in the field get sensitive about it if we believe in our field but I sometimes think we get it the necessary number of brickbats sometimes from people who really don't understand what we're trying to do somehow we have created some wrong impression about our self or what we're trying to accomplish. Which I think is very unfortunate I think it's unfortunate particularly in what I would broadly call the intellectual community. And there I think that there is a woeful lack of understanding and yet these people have the same problems and they do handle them and recognize the need for public relations at a certain point. And yet they will with a big brush broadly Tarr public relations as something disastrous In fact I believe there was a a professor at a big university once called public relations the sickness of our times and I haven't any idea what he meant at the University of California at Berkeley you might have been able to use a little that is
that is exactly what I know not long ago and some of the other institutions as well this is obviously the reason we're here today is to try to explain somewhat to the people who have a natural and an important concern about what this field Iran is all about what what it is where it might be going and what it can't do. I think there's been much too much emphasis on what we theoretically can do and most often cannot do and I think this applies in many cases to our employers and our clients doesn't Melton. Well I think it does and I don't think that the public relations field has a greater public relations problem than anyone else including the critics and the you know the outcome is worse that we're in it you say. That's right were you were under the gun in this is this is a problem. But I'm not sure that really creating a better understanding I would answer is the problem because I think that we are paying the penalty of success. Yes to some extent so that the critics
First of all can seize upon some things that many people in the business have done or have not done. And secondly there is a type of criticism that's unavoidable because if you're preparing an article or a book you have a thesis and there are some gaudy aspects to public relations and these are the things that are emphasized. But we're no worse off than many other groups where the elections of a few will become lead the charge against the many. And finally I think that we suffer from. All sickness of the times in which people are over communicated with and everyone has ideas about everything and most of the critics of public relations haven't any idea of what how it's practice what it does what its objectives what I'd like to put it another way. It seems to me that in my ideal kind of a world there would be a lot more public relations and that kind of a world why we would all find it a happier place to live we would get a pleasant greeting wherever we went we would get an answer on the telephone we get an
answer to our letters. But a lot of our frustrations would be eliminated. And this is what many of us try to do in our work but it's not widespread enough. When I come will be a big sign over it that says this is the Millennium right. And the next day it will have problems again because change is inevitable and constant and as soon as we achieve perfection in anything the next the next morning we will move away from it and because of change but but this obviously doesn't apply to everything and I think we must recognize the fact that the day that these problems don't exist public relations and I have a hard time existing because let's face it we are problem recognizers. Yes. And we try to help solve problems. If it weren't for those they wouldn't need us as I've often told my staff. So while on one hand we have problems and we wish we didn't have them when we wish people thought better of us and so forth at the same time if there weren't things that create these we'd all be doing something else. This is true too I think of a good many
people in other fields. Part of this implies of course that we're getting out of the immature flashy euro press agent implication and so forth to discipline almost professionalism I think there's considerable doubt that most of us are at it yet. This ties in obviously with the trend toward professionalism and discipline in the managements of the people we work with and for. And that they are being trained to be extremely hard headed and tough minded. As a matter of fact tough minded management is the title of one of the bestselling books on business in recent years I deplore the title because of the implications I think from a public relations systematic standpoint are bad for business in general but there is a growing excellence in business leaders that this is another aspect and that I think is one of our problems that we must produce people of comparable excellence to work with the excellent managers of moral rights
writers there are more managers who have an MBA and higher degrees we must be able to talk with them. But then we're faced with this our main function seems to me and I think most of us in the serious aspects of the field agree is to maintain a sensitivity for the attitudes of people the intangibles to know our way around at least in how to approach these and then to help our clients judge what to do about it and maybe do something about it. They are being trained to cut through all of the intangibles and get to the core of what they consider to be the facts and so on. So at the same time that that these two developments are going along we must. Seems to me avoid the natural tendency to be pulled together and we would be pulled toward them. In other words we get to the point where these professional managers say give us your public relations reports and predictions and programs the same way we get them from purchasing and finance and so forth but the figures and the facts down don't give me anything that I can't see laid out in front of me. Now what does that do
to the ability and the function of the public relations person to keep his sensitivity for the human idea and attitude and so forth which is really what the corporation has to cope with in the fields were involved in that. How do you encounter this in your situation. Well it's the function is frequently very hard to explain in the environment where everything else is done by figures. That's what the other day when I was in a conversation with one of the toughest minded of my colleagues the president one of our subsidiaries and he was arguing with certain recommendations of mine which were based. On my own knowledge of people in the field and I did not have a hand surveys nor did I have statistical data. However somewhere in the discussion he was telling me about one of the best men in his division who was a specialty was making things stick together. And he's so good at sticking things together he's called in all over the world for special
problems. And he said I don't know how he does it. He said he had the same has the same training as many other people here but he has something. Something in the way of genius that enables him to stick things together. And I said this is what I'm talking about in the public relations field you have finger spritz and you have a special sensitivity or you don't stay in the field or you don't make a success of it. But nevertheless because everyone and to a certain extent is a public relations expert. They attend frequently to depreciate the value of our analysis that is based on Call it into a strength. That's right. That's right. A general feeling that here we we live with this every day how can you come in once in a while and give us anything that we can think about which is the old story of
all of the members of the New York symphony orchestra live with music every day and yet someone can come along and write a new composition that none of them ever thought about because each somehow has a sensitivity to what goes into the music. We spend our our training years and our working lives and very often our non-working lives being interested in and sensitive to how people think and why they think and people employers generally spend most of their time struggling with these figures and these tangible problems and you need both and you need to have them both brought together now because one of the promise fill it seems to me was definitions were always trying to define this field very precisely and yet I feel that the world seems to be divided between the people who just instantly understand the concept of public relations without a formal definition or never do. And if you have to work for the latter group it's a little tough. That's right. Matter of fact we have a great many people in the field who are in the latter group.
If that is the great problem of the business is to walk with kings and keep the common touch. Yes and if we can do that we have an advantage I think over the average businessman or the average government man or a university man who the higher he gets and any one of the bureaucracies the more he is insulated from contacts with people of color the lower rank lower grade. And I would imagine that the difficulty of the president of a large corporation to understand the thinking of a man at the bench and a distant planet is not much different than the problem of a university president a long established understanding of what's going on in the mind of the new instructor over in the social logy time. That's right the bureaucrats in government have their difficulties of that and as we get international not only as far as our government is concerned but and even in business and other things
to sit in a an ivory tower air conditioned office in any city in the United States and try to determine what policy should be in my village in Iran or in Colombia or in an Argentina or Africa and a song that if you have the figures in front of you or if you have a product in its package in front of you you know how people are going to react. It is much more of the sickness of our time soured I think than what we attempt to do and more and more of this is happening at a very rapid pace as we all know as we know almost all of our industries in this country. Many of our universities certainly all of our government. Main government interests are becoming much more involved in international aspects all the time. People are not alike. Even people in those countries don't understand all elements of their own populations and all of the factors involved. You don't have to reach for Tim book to it or you can take Kokomo Indiana from New York.
And I think part of this fill is that with bigness everything is become so complicated that if a problem facing any one of these institutions was spelled out in depth it would it would take a body of us that has a dictionary. Where do you think we're going to get the capable broad people we're talking about for the future. Both of the competition for bright young people men and women at other areas are giving and the very inadequate attention being given to this field in the educational institution and so forth. Do you feel that we're going to continue to find talented and capable people come along who who drift into public relations because they find a place in it. Are we going to be able to make more progress toward that. Training people and planning that they're going to be public relations people from from early times. From your viewpoint in
seeing manuscripts some of that many academic people and others for the quarterly review Howard do you see any patterns evolving that hold out any hope in this area. Well you've got hold of one that both Milton and I could go on for the next 24 hours at least because we've both as you know I have had a lot of involvements with educational matters through PRSA. I would just put it this way First of all to you. Let's look at the number of institutions of higher learning there are about 2000 and I would judge that survey we made there are about 300 of the 2000 who offer some kind of a course in public relations and this can be a very minor one. And there is only one of these at the top of the scale that has a full scale program. So that indicates that there are 17 hundred institutions in which students can go and they would never hear anything about public variations including guidance or going to be executives I mean what you're saying right that's the thing that is very worrisome
and but it's also a matter of recruiting because out of those 700 institutions there are many fine ones and which we would all hope to attract good students. But there is another aspect of it which is now being still debated I think will be for some time and that is whether you can really teach this skill and that to me is the crux of it. I think that more and more we will have to follow what corporations do in other fields. You can talk more on that in which they go out and hire the best possible man and he has a certain background of course but they want a good top flight person and then they expect to do a lot of training. Now those of us in counseling I think it in many cases is difficult for us to have the facilities to do training. But I think in the future fill that this is something we will have to concern ourselves with.
Well let's look at the other side of the coin for a minute. The thing that I think is much more disturbing to me that even a lack of preparation of people and the question of whether you can really prepare people I agree with that. And that is that we're getting these practical minded people trained as executives to run all of our institutions colleges government agencies corporations nonprofit organizations and so forth who get master's degrees increasingly And Dr. Drew doctorates will get more and more intensive training and. Wide range of subjects who are never exposed to the fact that their biggest problems in their lives after they go out is going to deal with coping with the attitudes of the people they're going to have to work with there. It's one thing to consider training a public relations people it's another to expose the people who are going to have to face the public's with something about those publics and what the problems are and what might be done about working with them.
The baby graduate school is a business almost exclusively do not have a single course for these future managers a business that even tells them what the human attitude problems are going to be and what they might be able to do about it. And to me that is the undoubtedly the greatest gap in our educational system today. I agree many of us have beat our heads up against the wall of talking to these people trying to do so and the deans of these schools are practicing public relations man primarily they spend a major part of their yes time giving speeches and attending business meetings so that their institutions will be recognized as worthy of whatever it is that they're trying to get but they will not recognize that this is something that other people are going to have to cope with. Well it was Phyllis but an opening wedge in this I think this is something I've spent quite a bit of time on. The Foundation for Public Relations for search and education gave a grant to Cornell University. You're on your mind of that. Actually I was until last year a
Cornell University has a school of Graduate School of Business and government administration. We gave a grant for a course not to train public relations men but to give the future administrators an understanding of what the what the business is and how to use it. Wayne Hodges of Cornell put on the chorus. He surveyed the results of the course was one of the most popular ones they'd given and his report on the course was made available to every Graduate School of Business in the country. How many of them are followed I don't know. However there is a problem on the campus in introducing a course of this kind. I talked this over several years ago with the dean of the number one Graduate School of Business in the US and he agreed with me completely on the need for it. He pointed out incidentally that 10 years before the
same proposal had come up. And the difficulty was to get acceptance of the idea by the faculty he was in complete agreement. It should be done. The faculty had a. We called the snobbish attitude toward this. Well they also have an isolated island that faculty people live in the in the wonderful world of their own choice. They do not get out there and have to cope with these publics that we're talking about and I have to wonder why they don't understand the institution they're with and they do in some places I think the University of California even some of the faculty people realize that maybe something needs to be done to get an understanding of the institution and what its purposes are and so forth. But they're able to make that choice of isolation if you will and I'm not saying this in any derogatory sense about academic people. They said all right I rant although I haven't gotten through to the intellectual community well it's not only the gap whatever you get the whole question of whether you can get through to people who
have no self interest or soft desire in listening to or understanding or accepting what you have to say to them and when they have the luxury of. Isolation from the problems we're talking about they don't have to listen to you no matter how you try to present your case. I don't think we seven are going to marry well when they write a book and then they come to us for publicity. To some extent that's right. Well I think that we have to have an amazing scene where you have been listening to the fourth and last in a series of conversations on public relation research dept with Philip Leslie president of the Philip Leslie company and an editor of the public relations handbook. Hold joining Mr I say where Milton Freidman vice president of the Borden company and Howard Hudson editor of the quarterly review of public relations and public relations Council SNC transcripts of this program are available and sent in 50 cents for each copy to
- Trends and problems in P.R.
- Producing Organization
- WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- This program features Milton Fairman of the Borden Company; and Howard Hudson, editor of The Quarterly Review of Public Relations.
- A series of informal half-hour discussions on the nature and ethics of public relations. Series is hosted by Philip Lesly, editor of the Public Relations Handbook.
- Asset type
- Media type
Host: Lesly, Philip, 1918-
Interviewee: Fairman, Milton
Interviewee: Hudson, Howard Penn
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: cpb-aacip-2e33a2fad1b (Filename)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “Conversations on public relations; Trends and problems in P.R..” 1967-08-29. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 21, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-hh6c6k7x>.
- APA: Conversations on public relations; Trends and problems in P.R.. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-hh6c6k7x