What determines a company’s relations with the public?


My friend,
Oliver M. (Muff) Gale, founded the public relations department at P&G. A few weeks before he died in 2006 at age 97, he faxed me this, which he had written to his chief executive in 1949 to explain what this strange new thing called a public relations department is and what it should do. Its principles, just as true today, would help our country if they were understood. He began by asking this question:

What determines a company’s relations with the public?
The attitude of the public toward a company is determined by two things:
1. What the company does.
2. What the public thinks the company does.

No public relations program can long succeed if the policies and practices of the company are contrary to the interests of its various publics. Fortunately, Procter & Gamble does not have any major worries on this score. At the same time the more the company’s actions are in tune with the public will, the better its public relations will be.

(Gale goes on a page later to ask:)
What Public Relations objective should we have?
In simplest terms, our public relations objective should be to make all our various publics think of Procter & Gamble as a good company.

More specifically: A good company is one whose management fulfills wisely and effectively four basic responsibilities, --to the customer, to the employees, to the shareholders, and to the community.

Management must be sure that the customer gets the best products that science and technical skill can create at the lowest cost that production efficiency can achieve.

Management must do its utmost to provide employees with steady work under good working conditions, with fair compensation and an opportunity for advancement; must give them consideration in times of sickness and death and help them save so that they can provide for their old age.

Management is responsible to the shareholders who own the company—to operate the business at a profit and to contribute the vision, planning, and financial stewardship necessary for its continued growth.

Management is responsible for the business being conducted as a “good citizen” of the community in which it lives—whether it is the large community of the United States or a section of it.

In these four elements can be found the broad outline of the corporate portrait which public relations should paint for the public. Every activity, every statement, every public utterance on the part of the company should contribute its own brush stroke to the portrait until there is clearly presented to the public the picture of a company which makes good products, treats its employees well, operates in the public interest and discharges its social and economic responsibilities.

If we are successful in presenting this picture to the public, we will automatically be making a major contribution toward the broad problem of preserving our present economic environment. If people understand how Procter & Gamble works and approve of the things it does, they will understand our whole economic system better and have a more friendly attitude toward it.

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Oliver Gale sought to set up and run the Public Relations department at P&G by principles. It’s in knowing by what principles we make decisions that we can more often make good decisions. Principles. W. Edwards Deming called it “theory” when he berated me in my Deming of America video and said that “Examples teach nothing without theory.” We need a theory of management, he said. Both Deming and Gale were wise men, putting into practice Quality thought, based on principles. priscillapetty.com © Priscilla Petty 2009