Conversations on public relations; Functions of public relations
No conversations on public relations. He's from Riverside radio we present the second of four conversations on public relations with Philip Leslie president of the Philip Leslie company and editor of the public relations handbook on this here is Mr. Ladley and his guests discuss the scope of the problems facing the public relations industry. But I think a guest on the second program our Director of Public Relations called the DuPont company and golden Public Relations Council and writer on public relations for the Saturday Review. The topic of discussion the functions of public relation and here is Mr. Leslie Mr. PERRY. You might start the discussion today on the basis of your broad background both from large corporate public relations operation and your other public relations activities indicating what the basic functions in a public relations program are. I should say that the basic functions of a public relations
organization whether it be for business a religious organization an educational institution are basically the same twofold first. They are the representative of the institution with the publics that are important to that institution. And second they are the exact reverse they are the representative of the publics inside the organization. It seems to me that you set up a consultative relationship which hopefully will result in effective communication. Right. Mr. Golden would you get more specific than from these broad ranges. What are the areas of function are before we get specific. Wow instead of getting specific I give mine if I get even more general. All right. In our society no organization can survive. No politician can survive no political party. None of the organizations Mr. Perry mentioned could survive including a no trade union can in the long term
survive unless the public is willing to allow it to survive. And in order to survive to have the public allow you to do what you're doing whether you're running a church or whether you're running a trade union you must always act in what the public thinks is its interest since the public in the final analysis in our society is the dominant power. All right we've talked about the public as an entity and of course we all know that from an actual operating standpoint we're dealing with the various groups that we refer to as publics. Every individual of course is a member of many types of bodies. A man can be an employee a member of a given church a member of a given labor union a political party and so forth. And the organization needs to cope with and get adjusted to and be understood by all of these from a working standpoint and you might
indicate this from your working experience. You're faced aren't you with the dual function of having an overall public relations policy and program and communications operation and a number of specific ones to deal with the individual publics and the factors that are involved in working with them not you. Yes this is this is inevitable I think you have a broad overall picture and then you have this broken down into segments that have to be dealt with individually and I'd like to fill if I might to get back to something that loose and that was his comment. What was it you said about the importance of public acceptance. Yes yes. I just wanted to add a comment to that note is that it doesn't seem to me that this could be interpreted or should be interpreted to mean that you have to try to trim your sails to every wind although I couldn't agree with you more.
It seems to me that an organization has to comport itself in such a way as to deserve popular support. If it's going to expect to have popular support now I come back here to the consultative aspect of public relations. It seems to me that as a public relations practitioner one of my most important duties is to look as objective as I can at the activities of the organization for which I'm working so that I can praise it from the point of view of the public interest. It seems to me that if I become so thoroughly the creature of my management that I look at things through their eyes. Much of my value is gone. That's a very good point and I think we can elaborate on that a bit and pointing this out that it's almost it is a truism. That the people who run an organization are different from the great masses of people that the individual publics they deal with. The top executives of a business
organization are the top officials of a university or the top officials of a government are different in their heritage their background their education their outlook on life from the man in the street if you want to use a generalization you have to assume that to establish a rapport with these other people you must have a different viewpoint you must have an adjustment of viewpoint between these different backgrounds and heritages and ways of looking at things and that therefore you almost are faced with making certain that the public relations consultation of function you refer to is consciously different from the same frame of reference that the top executives of the organization have who employ the public relations function. You know in some ways the public relations director of a major corporation is in the most difficult position of anybody in the corporation because at one in the same time he must be. One of the team or
what about a company man at the same time he must be what somebody else in the company is going to say is just loyal because he Raju made his advice may run counter to what the other executives think is the best for the company. But he has to be strong enough and this is the toughest part. I think myself of a public relations director of a major corporation to be able to advise management at a certain course of action will have harmful of facts if the decision is made that way. Do you agree Glenn. Lou I'm extremely interested in hearing you say this because two weeks ago I was over in Geneva and one of the things I told them was that that the time will come when your management will really wonder whose side you are on. Exactly. It added this that if you don't know what I'm talking about the time will come when you will.
And that's when we're going to find out how good a public relations man you are. Why don't we find in our funds are the most dangerous things to a corporation. If you keep on saying Yes you're going to be ultimately no use to your boss. What we find in our practice and I imagine Lou you'll experience this and will and I'm sure from your side you have that very often this is the most important reason for having both a strong public relations department and a respected public relations counseling organization that they rub off on each other and bring two viewpoints together to bring to the management. As time as situations arise but all even more important it provides a means of reaching the management with a combined judgment from different viewpoints from two strong advocates if you will of whatever viewpoint it is with the council very often bringing an outside viewpoint that isn't steeped in 20 years or 30 years of a career with that same company and with those same management people.
We put a great deal of stress on the consultation function and on the survival aspect so that I think we it's important to indicate there are very positive aspects of public relations of doing things that are consciously conceived and planned carried out and so forth to perform services that are mutually beneficial to one or more of the publics involved and the organization involved and these of course ranged along a very large list a very wide range of functions. I've often said that the requirements for a good public relations man or even a good public relations organization are impossible. You have to know too many things be able to do too many things and so forth but approaching the impossible is as an aspiration for all of us. For instance I'm sure Glenn in your experience you've been been involved in setting up a great many activities and events for instance in order to establish
the understanding of something to establish a good report with a community or employee groups or whatever other types of thing there might be. You might want to. Yes I could give you an example of your church. We believe very strongly. That the in the last analysis the ideas that prevail in the United States are those that are held by the intellectual community educators. Mostly we feel that it is the most immense importance for business generally and for an organization like The Departed company specifically that there be on the part of that intellectual community an awareness of the function of the business and of its importance in the whole fabric of our society we feel that that if there is not that understanding that there is very great danger that these intellectual ideas and causes which in the long run will be inimical to the function of
business and that this can help in the long run but hurt the whole fabric of our society since for whatever reason our society has elected that it will stand or fall on the on the business economy and the economy of industry let's say rather than have agriculture so that it's enormously important that the that the people who in the last analysis determine the course of thought in this country understand. The operations of business the motivations of business who gets what for doing what and why and what it means to society now. Nobody it seems to me can do this whole job but everybody can do a little of it and we determined that we would have what we called an educators conference. So I think it was in 1950 Lou we invited the presidents of 40 colleges and universities to nominate social scientists to come to us for 11 days in Wilmington.
We sat down with them and we completely showed them the departed company we put them in animate touch with all of the top management of the company of the executive committee the president the chairman of the board the heads of the various departments. In effect they lived for almost two weeks. We had discussion periods on each of our functions and talked about them with tremendous candor. This was a two way exchange. Yes this is right. And this resulted. We thought very the outcome was very successful. So much so that we did it every year for 14 years. Well when you multiply 40 by 40 and when you consider that these are men who are nominated because they are outstanding they're presently or potentially by the presidents of their institutions it seems to me quite obvious that you are seeking understanding. A very important public indeed right now. Obviously this is
only a piece of the puzzle but it is an important piece. We would hope that other companies and other organizations would do a similar job so that you would get an aggregate picture that would really make business and industry invulnerable to attack as long as it deserved to be invulnerable. Well listen a byproduct of this that some of the feeling and some of the background of these educators rubs off on Duponts people or the fact requires and leads the Dupont people are justing and gaining a greater report of greater reconciliation with the educational community now this this is something that isn't generally realized. This is this effort at least as important as the other part of it. No question about this effort that public relations people with all of our faults and with all of the people in the field who call themselves public relations people on our right and so forth this effort to lead our clients to establish rapport two ways with their publics has led to a reforming without
realisation without our without many of the clients realizing it I mean the companies realizing that a re formation of the thinking of these companies and their place in our society economic social psychological and various other ways. And that pulling this bootstrap operation if you will. Pulling ourselves up or pulling our clients up in the process of what used to be getting our story across but now almost as often is understanding the public so that we can get on stream with them. It is a very important hidden function I think that one of the most serious NQ under which we labor is the popular belief that it is not our job to do any of the things we've been discussing this morning that our job is to let our managements do whatever they please and we have a fabric of fancy words behind which they can operate unscathed and it simply is not true. Just because you work and you can't do it is not possible Ben Franklin said almost 200 years ago.
To thrive. Be what you would seen. And maybe public relations hasn't come much further than that in this respect even in the in the 200 years. Now if I think it's conspicuous that we have said so little about publicising per se and I think that's very very good that we have because so much of the time when you talk public relations when people think public relations they think in terms of getting out information getting stuff into print and on the air and so many think that that's the that is public relations period. Well understood no less today is because here again you see I think that one reason why and I've suggested earlier that one reason why public relations has a bad name is that there are a great number of charlatans and phoneys who assume that title. Yeah and I'm afraid that people are inclined to generalize and think it's all like that. Well with published today I think it's the same way I think they see this published today almost by
definition is an effort to implant something that is not true. Well actually publish today is a synonym for information and it's the effort to implant what is true not what is not true. That's right. I think we should indicate maybe this is a semantic question but. Press Agent Three for instance which maybe started all of this is the implantation really of what is basically natural. Maybe you see exaggerated with the circus press and still this publicity probably we need to hold as a term for the legitimate dissemination of information in various forms. And let's face it the range of what is and what you actually do in public relations work will involve publicity anywhere from 20 percent and 90 percent of your time in good programs maybe 50 percent or something of that sort being mean. I'd like to make a few comments on something that we call a precinct approach to public relations. It begins
with the concept that a hundred seventy or eighty million Americans or many of them may be right now. It's absolutely silly and pointless for a company like DuPont to think that you can talk to all of them. I'm sure that half of them never even heard the word. The other half I should think 95 percent couldn't care less what happens to the DuPont company or have any interest in what it thinks says or does. On the other hand there are certain publics that are enormously important to us because they have a reason to be interested. First our employees and their families. This is our first and most important public. Second our customers serve our suppliers. Fourth our stockholders and fifth our neighbors in plant communities particularly in communities that are small enough so that part is an economic force that's recognized. When you talk to those
publics and I think it's absolutely vital that you establish effective communication with all of them. When you do this you have to remember these people know you. And if you try to convince them of something that's not true it's inevitable going to boomerang you're going to be worse off than you were before. So that this I think puts exceptional stress on the importance of trying to do the right thing for the right reasons and you have to recognize too that we're living in an age without walls. Today when I talk to his plant in Georgia and one basis and then go up to his plant in the state of Washington and tell them something different is over. You can't tell your stockholders that your policies are such and such aimed at maximization of profits and then tell your employees that you don't care. You don't put profits very high in your objectives had benefits for them are the only thing you're really concerned with
are not going to believe you at all. We're in an age of instantaneous communication we're in an age when almost everyone in this country is educated well enough to be susceptible to be aware of communication and to reject what they do well and that's right we have great mobility. An employee not only lives in his own community but he lives in the national community and he has contacts and talks to people and deals with people all over the place and so forth. Saw that while we do talk in terms of these publics and the precinct approaches you as you put it plan we always have to recognize that there are no separations there are no walls in public relations and the tendency to over specialize for a company to say what we're really concerned with is our stockholders and the financial community because when we need capital we want to get it at a good rate. Let's not do any and let's not worry about these other things that's got a financial public relations program.
It's so unrealistic because you can't put the walls up between what the employees and the general community and the government you didn't mention this is a precinct it's a very important resort area and all of these other people are going to think and know about the company and sometimes the most important communication to the financial community is a speech made to a plant community in Georgia or at a Senate investigation hearing or hearing on a proposed bill in Washington. These walls Fortunately I think I think it's a very good thing these walls are breaking down more and more and we have a combined separate public situation and an overall public situation we must deal with at the same time. You know when you when you have a setback to whether your firm is now going to have a separate program for that said the other. We have forgotten to mention that every organization has relations with the public whether they have an organized public relations
program or not. A company university trade union they all have relations and whether that. So they say they have no public relations of course have got public relations they have relations with their various groups they're working with. The only difference is one may be well thought out program to shall I say better relate to these groups and the other is a hodgepodge sockless program which isn't directed at all. So you can say well we have no public relations. Well I think that one of our difficulties is that the term public relations has two meanings first. It means relations with the public. And if you called it that instead of public relations I think we'd be out of a lot of our debt right away because nobody will deny that he has relations with the public of course he does and this means I think another point in the public relations man's realization of
where he really stands and that is that the public relations of the DuPont company for example are not in my judgment created by the public relations department which is an exceedingly small group and a quite large company. It seems to me that the public relations of the depart company in the main are the accumulative effect of the words thoughts and deeds of every employee of the company beginning with the president and ending right down the line with some messenger or a telephone operator. Everything that they do on and off the job seems to me helps or detracts from a good opinion of the DuPont company and the basic opinion of the company is is the cumulative effect of all these things. This is best seen right now I think in this highly publicized attitude of the college population that business is for the birds. These young people have grown up in economic and social climate.
In which security is almost taken for granted. Making a good living is almost taken for granted and the exposures they've had to the business community has been almost allowed to take its course. This program you discussed with educators is extremely important for that reason it's a great neglected area but in general it's been allowed to take its course and the impressions they have received a composite impression they have of business in general has been coming to them from sources that have other heritages other viewpoints other other frames of reference and so forth and that this can very well happen to some of the institutions and organizations that now are blessed with the attitude of the college population that they are the place to spend their lives as maybe it's a cycle that we're going through. It may very well be that the universities for instance and the government service divisions will go through a phase one mission
work for the gov. That's right Miss And that should have been appreciating as circumstances change. I think that. The idea of many business man are shall I say some of which reflected what you say that university students are called these students think that business is for the birds is perhaps exaggerated. I saw a study I think it was Newsweek studied national trust to a conference board. It was presented by Harris National Conference Board studied the 30 percent of the students think it's fine to work in business. Well I think that's a great 30 percent are prepared to work in business. 30 percent are prepared to work in education. I don't think business suffers by that I have an idea despite this new lept. That business as a whole is far higher regarded today in fact I'm sure not an idea than it was during a New Deal period. You think so Glenn.
Of course until such actions it seems to me at a much higher level despite occasional lapses. Oh and also it also has adjusted itself. As well as the trade unions will happen. We cannot have a continuation of shall I call it my quill ism and it wasn't because President Johnson was a union or didn't want to do what President mean he wanted to do on 14 Be it because public opinion had changed about unions that they couldn't remove 14. It's an important point to this changeability is related to the plurality of our publics where we're developing more and more segments of our population all the time they are the de Boys Clubs on one side and the John Birch Society and the other are factors in our society and all of the gradations in between are factors you can't you can't generalize you can even find very often a happy mean of what our
publics are. You look at the publications in this country as a symptom of what people are interested in. It's not the mass publications have not been the ones that have had a great burst of prosperity there's been a specialized publications. The ones that people sing a lot because for them particularly this meets a need and they don't want to be like everyone else. And we have this plurality and in fact that a good many college students don't want to do what it was expected of them for generations which was to go out and make a living per se is an indication of diversity and of broadness a viewpoint and it's probably one of the great challenges of public relations in Indonesia in the future. I don't think we can say that public opinion per se on the public per se really runs the country because unfortunately we've seen lots of instances where federal legislation has been passed. Because of overt actions by small minority representation of public opinion. I think this is something we need all to be conscious of and to recognize that perhaps one
of the public relations functions that we in public relations need to perform is to get a better understanding of how to assess the overt action and the visible action in relation to the underlying public of people whose lives depend on their boats or politicians. I'd like that one point not to come back to something that we said at the very beginning of this thing and that is the importance of objectivity. Because the thing really that differentiates the public relations man from the production of the salesman and of the research man is that he has objectivity the other man is subjective. He has a polarized point of view. And it's not reasonable I think to expect him to be able to take an objective view I'm not even sure he should. I think it's important that there be somebody with the objective view. And that's where the public relations man comes in. The old cliche is that a public relations man must always be ready to lose his job or give up. It should be tough.
You have been listening to the second in a series of conversations on public relation we should always with Philip Leslie president of the Phonak Leslie company and editor of the public relations handbook for joining Mr. THAT ARE YOU are Glen Perry director of public relations for the DuPont company and L.A. golden run every other day in council and writer on public relations called the Saturday Review. Next week Mr. Leslie's guest will be Raymond Simon an associate professor of public relations at Utica College of Syracuse University and Eugene Miller vice president for public affairs of McGraw Hill incorporated into the topic at that time will be public relations and public interest. So this program are available send 50 cents for each copy to New York New York 1 Double 0 to 7 really needs that it I think again is the lobby in New York New York 1 Double 0 2 7. The conversations on public relations could you decide that you would be repelled and Walter Shepherd for a W while they are the
- Functions of public relations
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- WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- This program features Glen Perry of DuPont Corporation, and L.L.L. Golden, columnist, Saturday Review.
- 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.
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Host: Lesly, Philip, 1918-
Interviewee: Golden, L. L. L.
Interviewee: Perry, Glen C. H.
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
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University of Maryland
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- APA: Conversations on public relations; Functions of public relations. 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-wm13sm1k