«PR: Industry's No. 1 Job»

Ein erstaunlich aktuelles historisches Dokument: Eine Rede von Paul Garret aus dem Jahr 1938*

Von Paul Garret, Einführung von Manfred Piwinger

Inhalt:

1 Einführung
2 Die Rede von Paul Garret (Auszüge) aus dem Jahr 1938
2.1 Public Relations — Industry's No. 1 Job
2.2 Means «Relations with the Public»
2.3 Industry's «Social By-Products»
2.4 Public Relations Not a Panacea
2.5 New Leadership in Industry Foreseen
2.6 Big and Little Business Mutually Dependent
2.7 Public Relations Begin at Home
2.8 The «Home Town» Folks Know
2.9 «Living Right» Is Not Enough

1 Einführung

Das folgende, in Auszügen abgedruckte ungewöhnliche PR-Dokument ist von atemberaubender Aktualität, obwohl es aus dem Jahr 1938 stammt. Es ist der Text einer Ansprache, die Paul Garret, damals Vice President in charge of Public Relations bei General Motors, auf dem 21. Jahreskongress des Verbandes amerikanischer Werbeagenturen in White Sulphur Springs (West Virginia) gehalten hat.

Mit kleinen Abänderungen könnte sie auch heute noch so gehalten werden. Große Aufmerksamkeit wäre ihr sicher. Denn Public Relations suchen noch immer ihren zuverlässigen Standort und die große Linie, die Garret engagiert und in beeindruckender Weise vorzeichnet. Wieder einmal zeigt sich an diesem Beispiel, was an dem, worüber wir heute sprechen und worüber wir uns die Köpfe zerbrechen, von den Pionieren der PR-Branche schon in einer Zeit vorgedacht und vorgelebt worden ist, in der Public Relations in Deutschland weitgehend unbekannt war.

Was Garret vorträgt, ist ein leidenschaftliches Plädoyer für eine verantwortungsvolle und transparente Unternehmensführung — Gedankengänge, die verblüffend nahe dem Corporate Governance Kodex sind: «The great lesson that business is learning is that people are interested in more than just the product and price. They are interested in the way things are done, in what might be called the ‹social byproducts› of industry» (vgl. 2.3).

In seiner heute als «historisch» zu bezeichnenden Rede widmet sich Garret intensiv der Frage, wie und wodurch die Industrie ihr Verhältnis zur Öffentlichkeit, ihren Bezugsgruppen und den eigenen Belegschaften offen und im Sinne von «public benefits» zu gestalten hat. Um den Originalcharakter zu wahren, drucken wir den Text in englischer Sprache (Veröffentlichung in: «Kommunikationsmanagement» (Losebl.2001 ff., München).

2 Die Rede von Paul Garret (Auszüge) aus dem Jahr 1938

2.1 Public Relations — Industry's No. 1 Job

… So it is only in recent years that we have begun to talk about public relations. I wonder how many of us realize, when we use those words, exactly what they mean. I recall a quotation from justice Holmes in one of his decisions when he said: «A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanging; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used.»

2.2 Means «Relations with the Public»

Now when we put together two words which have not been together in the past — I mean the words public relations — we have joined two words that are not joined in Webster's Dictionary, although there you will find public house, public service, public school and public spirit.

Public relations is a synthetic term carrying many meanings. By some it is used as a fancy name for common press agentry; by some as a term for insidious propaganda to put something over. By others it is used to mean the telling of the «favorable» side of business. It is, of course, none of these things. It is infinitely more. Put the two words together in a different way and you have «relations with the public». Now, if we are going to talk about the public, we must regard the term as something more than a label. It refers to people — people comprising many overlapping groups. The folks who build our products. Those who distribute them. Those who buy them. Those who own the business. Those who live in the plant community. Those who supply materials.

Most persons fall within this or that special group. But the important thing is that they are all customers — members of that largest of all groups — the consuming public.

Public relations, therefore, is not something that can be applied to a particular phase of a business — nor is it an umbrella covering everything but touching nothing. It is rather a fundamental attitude of mind — a philosophy of management — which deliberately and with enlightened selfishness places the broad interest of the customer first in every decision affecting the operation of the business.**

The philosophy of public relations turns not upon the needs of industry but upon the needs of the customer. And upon what better ground could industry want to stand?

Let me go further and ask — Upon what better basis can industry go to the people and plead its franchise for continued service, so long as it offers through customer satisfaction a better way of living than has yet been developed through any other known system?

2.3 Industry's «Social By-Products»

But it is no longer sufficient that business produce goods or services of the kind customers want at a price that customers can pay. Although heaven knows that in itself is hard enough to do. In addition — and here we break into a new field of management responsibility — business must provide and dispense those goods and services in a manner to win general approval and under circumstances that will promote social as well as economic progress. The great lesson that business is learning is that people are interested in more than just the product and the price. They are interested in the way things are done, in what might be called the «social byproducts» of industry.

Defined broadly, good relations with the consuming public is not something that industry can achieve through publicity or through the activities of a particular department of the organization. Public relations in the broad sense is not a specialized activity like production, engineering, finance, sales. It is rather something that cuts through all these as the theme for each. It is an operating philosophy that management must seek to apply in everything it does and says. It is the philosophy of saying sincerely things people like — and saying them the way they like. It is more. It is the philosophy of doing things people like — and doing them the way they like. And, remember this, the doing is more important than the saying. But the doing alone is not enough.

Not everyone in industry understands this constructive philosophy of public relations. And so, too many of our so-called public relations efforts to date have been defensive measures. We have been engaged in putting out fires rather than in removing the causes of trouble by building durably for the future. In some quarters the desperation of circumstances has encouraged a naive mixture of faith and hope that this thing called public relations would really turn out to be a new form of industrial salvation, atoning for past sins and promising a blissful future. Press agents, hack writers, publicity hounds, lobbyists, psychoanalysts, pseudo-scientists, straw vote experts and dozens of other «specialists» — good, bad and indifferent — have been drafted to perform that psychological face-lifting operation known as «molding public opinion.» The result has ranged from the ludicrous to the tragic. But even so it has been refreshing, for it has evidenced a groping for new standards. We are beginning to find that there is more to public relations than patching up the mistakes of the past or providing temporary and soothing substitutes for sound management policies which should be in operation.

2.4 Public Relations Not a Panacea

I think it must be apparent that the typical handling of public relations in the past will not measure up to the requirements of the future. I think it must be apparent that — as might be expected in a field so new — nowhere is there to be found a public relations man who would claim to measure up to the requirements of today. We long ago passed the era of press agentry, but rare indeed is the organization or man that has better than a child's grasp of what will be required through the broadened public relations approach of the years to come.

Indicative of the ever-changing concepts through which public relations is groping to find its true place in business is the rapidly shifting balance in the responsibilities placed upon industrial managements. For example, the company with which I happen to be associated is in this year 1938 beginning its fourth decade of growth. Looking back over its major problems by decades you see an interesting cycle of change in emphasis on the elements that have demanded the attention of its executives. When it began in 1908 it was concerned primarily with financing — putting the pieces together. The second decade might be regarded as an engineering, production era. The third, merchandising. But I have noticed that as it enters its fourth and present decade of growth the major problems that occupy the thought of executives bear on public relations in one way or another. And the burden of successful management everywhere in industry is moving in the same direction.

As we pass into an era when industry seeks a more sensitive touch with consumer wants, leadership in industry will pass to men who first of all make it their business to study human relations with just as much science as they now study materials and methods. It will pass to executives who understand that the major problems in the future will be with governments and with people. And the time will come in your life and mine when the big jobs in industry will be bossed by men who in their comprehension of the practical factors in the business include also understanding of the influences that move men's minds and hearts.

2.5 New Leadership in Industry Foreseen

The problems which occupy the greater part of the time and attention of the industrial leader of today were scarcely heard of ten years ago. Tomorrow, business and industrial executives will be on as familiar ground in the realm of human relations involving public attitudes, customer reactions and the whole range of the social sciences as yesterday they were in the field of production. The leaders of industry who are blazing new trails in industrial management are precisely men of this type …

Thus, far from being a program of defense or an academic experiment in mass psychology, public relations, as a philosophy of management, projects itself inevitably in terms of concern for human beings — for higher standards of living. For what is this thing we call the standard of living but an economic name for how well people's wants are being satisfied?

2.6 Big and Little Business Mutually Dependent

The point I wish to make is that it takes all manner of businesses — big and little — to make an industrial world. And neither large enterprises nor small will be able to capitalize their resources to the full in the interests of the consuming public unless like water they find their own levels.

Now, it is little comfort that these theories, notions, contentions and beliefs have no basis in fact and that people ought to know better. Public relations must start not with what people ought to think but with what they actually do think. An opinion deeply rooted in consumer consciousness is just as much of a fact, so far as public relations is concerned, and just as important a fact to be dealt with, as a scientific finding from a research laboratory. And we must treat these psychological findings with all the respect we would treat any other finding. We must move up to them not in temper but objectively.

The most obvious lesson any company can learn, and seemingly the most difficult, is that good relations outside grow from good relations inside. If there is any secret to success in building good public relations it is that you must begin at home and work from the inside out. Begin in the plant if you want to be well thought of in the plant community. Begin in the plant community if you want to be well thought of over the nation.

2.7 Public Relations Begin at Home

First: A company's public relations program, to get anywhere, must begin with good relations in the outer office and inside the plant. If the immediate family is not happy and informed, those whom it meets on the outside will not be either. To outsiders those who work for a company are the company — outsiders judge the company by the folks they know in the company. But good relations with employees depend upon something more than high wages. The pay of course should be right always, but to most every employee a sense that he is being treated fairly is just as important as that he is being paid well. Lack of attention to grievances, real or fancied inequalities in treatment, failure to explain the whys and wherefores of company policies — these are the things that underlie most troubles.

… One of the difficulties is that business sometimes fails to anticipate the natural barriers that grow up between the men at the top and the men at the bottom as growth takes place. We suspect those we do not know. You are all familiar with that Story of Charles Lamb, who said: «I dislike that man.» «But,» came the reply, «you do not know him.» «Of course,» was Lamb's answer, «I do not know him. If I did, I couldn't dislike him.»

It is not always easy to transmit the philosophy of the president to the foreman. It is not always easy to transmit the philosophy of the foreman to the top management. But unless two-way channels of communication are cleared from top to bottom and from bottom to top, the industrial machine weakens and one day bogs down …

2.8 The «Home Town» Folks Know

Second: A company's public relations is strongly rooted in its plant community relations. There is no place a company is so much liked or hated as where it lives. Employees and townsmen observe what goes on, exchange views. No company can get away from the opinion of it held by folks in its home town.

Good community relations grow largely from the attitude of employees. As citizens of the community in which the company has its being, they are the best spokesmen for its policies. But beyond this, the company, as a partaker of community benefits, must consciously assume its share of community responsibilities. Local management must make sure that it understands the community's wants and needs and that in turn the community is made to understand what the company proposes to do and how. The interests of industry and of the community are mutual and supplementary; industry contributes the economic atmosphere — the community, the moral, the cultural and the civic atmosphere in which employees live. Unless industry has confidence in the community and the community has confidence in industry, how can the interests of either be fully served?

2.9 «Living Right» Is Not Enough

Third: With good relations inside the plant, and good relations within the plant community, you have the base for good relations with the public outside. But you can never take those relations for granted. Living right is not enough. People must know you live right. We must know people. They must know us. Know our company. What we really want is good relations with many more people than would find out about us were we content to allow the deed to speak for itself without any aid in its wider projection.

The art of public relations embraces the art of multiplication — that is, the art of multiplying endlessly the good impressions of a company. It involves the honest but skillful employment of all the known media but, most important of all, a development of new approaches and a more advanced technique in their use than any we have as yet learned. To work effectively, the multiplier in public relations must be a 1960 model.

In conclusion, let me say that none of these things are easy of accomplishment. But none of them are impossible of accomplishment. They will not even be very difficult, as events seem to be shaping now, once industry sets about solving its public relations problems with the same serious effort in years gone by it set about solving its financing, engineering and production problems.

They will not be nearly so difficult of accomplishment as time goes on if industry, mindful of its responsibilities in the social order, begins to stand «for» some things and not so often «against» things …

There is no place for public relations that connives or squirms or distorts facts. Public relations is honest. It is frank. It is open. It has vigor. It gains strength by application. Use it honestly, but use it on deeds and thoughts to make them multiply — without fear, without apology, without reserve. For to the extent that industry through public relations fails to maintain its initiative, its courage, its freedom of movement, is not the whole structure of our society endangered?

To establish this management philosophy of concern for the customer as a basic concept of the business, to see that it pervades the organization from top to bottom, to interpret with honesty the practices and precepts of the business in terms of benefits to others — lest business lose for the world the right through sound and ceaseless progress to serve humanity — that, as I see it, is INDUSTRY'S NO. 1 JOB. That is PUBLIC RELATIONS.

© Manfred Piwinger

* Manfred Piwinger brachte das schriftliche Dokument Anfang der 60er Jahre von einem mehrwöchigen Praktikum in einer Financial Relations Agentur aus den USA mit und bewahrt es bis heute in seiner «Schatztruhe» auf.

** Diese und folgende Hervorhebungen von Manfred Piwinger.