he term Public Relations was coined by Edward Bernays. Now somewhat forgotten, Bernays was once named "one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century" by Life Magazine. I happen to believe that Bernays was the most important and it was only after lengthy study of Berney's work that I truly began to understand what my chosen craft was really all about. Bernays continued to work and to keep his name out there until his death in 1985 at 104. The cunning old man had been a guest on the David Letterman show only one year prior.
Mr. Ivy Lee must also be mentioned; the man who's credited with inventing the "press release" as a tool for corporate and government spin.
Now better-understanding the nefarious origin and historical application of Public Relations by corporations and government, I abhor the term and prefer to not use it. However, one must sometimes employ it simply because this is the term the public best knows. I too manage public opinion, but no longer for the establishment since realizing the evil that was being done by the very Fortune 500 companies that were once paying me so well. My own epiphany came in 1984 with Prudential-Bache, then a very lucrative client. I was working in the Executive Suite in the LA offices of "Pru" when I began to question what the financial giant was in practice, routinely doing. After being told, "We're paying you to make it look good, not to crunch the goddamn' numbers!" I resigned the account only to later watch the total collapse of the once-mighty financial giant, Prudential Bache.
The 2008 implosion of America's (and indeed the world's) most powerful financial institutions and the ensuing economic mess in which we now find ourselves could have come as no great surprise to anyone paying attention. How could it have ended otherwise? Many have watched this very sort of massive corperate fraud and self-serving government political responses occur time and time again through the years, wondering if and when the general public would one-day begin to "get it". While one might think this time everyone has finally "got it", most flounder around wondering what we can "do" about it. I'm here to tell you that one can change things. It indeed takes a lot of work, time, and patience -- which I'm convinced cannot be taught. Everyone must somehow find their own path to learning that very-necessary ingredient; patience. Oh yes! Collaboration. This is a tough concept for those with unbridled egos. The creation of great movies and broadway shows, videos, music recordings as well as canny product development and marketing decisions are made possible through the collaborative process. When a group of creative people work together, collaborate, they just might come up with another Star Wars, IPhone, or Where's the beef?
After my experience with Pru-Bache, I was forced to ask myself how I could continue to make my living? Progressive business and causes didn't have near the budgets I once employed and I had to carefully examine and retrofit my model in order for it to somehow function without such massive resources. Suffice to say, it is possible and the personal gratification I have found in effeciently and effectively managing public opinion in order to make a positive difference in society has had many rewards. For me, it has all balanced out. I have made a fair living, I sleep well, and have maintained my self respect in the process. "Go thou and do likewise."
Many of my model's techniques are applicable to advertising and marketing goods & services and I truly love the creative challenges involved in product & services marketing and brand development. While I still occasionally do this for select clients, to me the real pleasure is in changing public policy that instantly makes things better for society. One can change city hall.
I've been fortunate to have studied at the foot of some of the true masters of advertising & marketing, including my mentor, the late Marion Harper, "The man who changed Madison Avenue". Marion gave me two pieces of advice when I decided to move to LA in 1982 from my home of 42 years in Oklahoma City. Marion told me, "When you get to LA, buy a PC and a database program" -- and "Don't ever open an ad agency!" I indeed took Marion's advice on both counts. Buying my first PC and that first crude shareware dbase program indeed changed my career and my life forever. Aside, I do believe that Marion would have approved of my later becomeing a Mac user.
For my money, the true Master of the Universe in political campaigning was my menotr, the late Joe Napolitan. I was privledged to collaborate with Joe on two campaigns for Governor of Hawai`i and remained in touch long after. If you view this short video, know that Joe is now 85+ and while perhaps a little redundant, you would be hearing some political campaign history from the man who helped make it, including John F. Kennedy's 1961 Campaign for President.
I didn't personally know the late Peter Drucker, but I have studied his writing and lectures on business management for over 40 years and his 1954 "bible," The Practice of Management remains a classic refernce. After nearly 60 years, most if not all of Mr. Drucker's pull quotes remain relevant and are well-worth a read for anyone wanting to improve their own management skills or to better-understand how to set about improving their personal productivity and work environment. The technology may change, but basic human nature and the psychology of the matter does not -- as Edward Bernays' work demonstrated.
The idea that all seniors eschew technology is dead wrong. Some of we Geezers have played important roles in the technology you routinely use today. I'm what they call "an early adapter". I can only guess why this is so, but I suspect that part of it has to do with my family. My great-grandfather Starr was a rather-famous inventor and a close friend of the Wright Brothers. He was at Kitty Hawk for their first flight. Apparently Grampa also hung out with Thomas Edison because one of his many obits reads, "While Edison was working on the incandescent lamp, Mr. Starr was one of the few inventors who did not think Edison crazy." Anyway, my father inherited Grampa Starr's technological and mechanical curiosity. Dad was a pattern maker; a highly-skilled craftsman who among other things, adapted plastics for use on military aircraft during WW II and after. I grew up alongside dad working in his home workshop. Fortunately, at least his curiosity rubbed off on me.
My interest in computers began in the 1950s when my mother brought home used punchcards for me to play with. She was a programmer for one of only 46 Univac computer systems in the world at Oklahoma City's Tinker Air Material Command.
During the early 1960s, I had partnered with a childhood friend, John Perry to launch a still-successful electronics research & development company. Ra-Nav Laboratories conducted innovative research and experimented with early telemetry systems, precursor to the modem which remains the very backbone of today's enormous telecommunications industry. Our early work with post-transistor miniaturized electronics technology (integrated circuits aka "the Microchip") contributed to one of the first applications of telemetry to medicine, now widely known as "tele-medicine." We were Geeks before there was a word for it and didn't know at the time that we were doing such ground-breaking work. I primarily assisted with the early marketing and my friend was the very-innovative engineer. While the company continues to flourish, I sold my interest in Ra-Nav in the early-1970s.
I was trained on large mainframe computers in the U.S. Airforce Supply System during the Vietnam War, and I bought my first PC in 1983 and began using the Internet for communications in 1984. That was perhaps the most defining moment for me in beginning to develop my current communications model and I have never much looked back since.
The development of the vast array of communications technologies since the introduction of the PC in 1981 has of course greatly-changed our work, but the techniques I routinely employ have not much changed; those that involve the psychology of managing public opinion. This, combined with the intuitive "gut" feelings based on experience and a little luck has produced our many success stories).
It all begins with the research needed to understand the nuance of often-complicated issues and a client's circumstances, and of course with one's writing skills. If you have no interest in writing or improving your writing skills, I might suggest here that you read no further and consider another field. Writing is lot of hard work and good writing is indeed tedious. I often tell my associates and clients that "good writers are not born, they create themselves by doing the hard work of just writing" and it's been gratifying to see many of them develop into truly exceptional writers.
People tend to hire me because of my personal relationships and demonstrated track record. I do no advertising, never have, because my business all comes from word-of-mouth -- which of course remains the most efficient and effective form of advertising. All that you need is one or two good highly-visable wins and people in high places will take notice.
As I write, the "traditional" vehicles we once worked so hard to engage and the personal relationships we once cultivated with newspaper and magazine staff are disappearing with once-proud newsrooms cut to the core, their companies in bankruptcy or completely gone as the survivors continue to try and somehow identify, create and then monetize their new models. And the consolidations of television stations has similarliy decimated their newsrooms.
Much has been and continues to be written about how and where people are receiving their "news". This is all moving too fast for me to comment much here but I will say this; the new technologies such as FaceBook, Twitter, GoogleTools, Ning and the other "social media" technologies offer many advantages and I use them all when and where applicable. I "play" with every new etool that comes along; always have. Some I find useful, others not. One thing is for certain; your use of technology is not an option and one might only guess what new marvel will emerge. Be curious about it all because the next "thing" could change your life.
I recently spent an evening with a group of young technology wizards discussing this evolution and was quietly relieved to hear them express their own dismay at how quickly the changes are indeed taking place. So you are far from being alone in trying to get a handle on it all.
I must say, there's often a vast disconnect between some of the younger masters of the technology and the effective use of the technology. While one may have the know-how to quickly throw a blog or Web site online, making it an effective political tool is quite another matter. You will have to wait for my book to read about how this can all be made to work together like a fine swiss watch.
My public opinion management model has received many accolades but the one that remains the most dear to me came from my young technology mentor and friend, Kevin Hughes who so kindly wrote, While some may use tools well, great people redefine their use. Scott Foster is one of the most effective and progressive masters of communication technology and technique since the rise of the internet. He is the type of person I write software for -- not the typical user, but the individual who deeply understands and fulfills the potential of communications technology. Scott routinely puts entire marketing departments to shame.
The Century of The Self
This brief video clip is from The Century of the Self, the acclaimed 4-hour documentary by filmmaker Adam Curtis released in 2002. The series follows Sigmund Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays' creation of Public Relations and its international use by corporate and government from World War I in 1918, through Nazi Germany and World War II, and its evolution and application through the election of President William Jefferson Clinton in 1992. The entire 4-hour series is poorly presented on YouTube and is sometimes availible on DvD at Amazon.com. I highly recommend this modest investment if you are seriously interested in learning this craft and having a better understanding what powerful, albeit seemingly-benign forces are working against us all on a daily basis.
"To put it simply, Edward Bernays' career -- more than that of any other individual -- roughed out what have become the strategies and practices of public relations in the United States."
The Museum of Public Relations was established in 1997 and "is the place to go to learn about how ideas are developed for industry, education, and government, and how they have been applied to successful public relations programs since the PR industry was born."
"No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution."
"The oldest military treatise in the world" Translated from Chinese By Lionel Giles, M.A.(1910)
Why do otherwise intelligent individuals form seething masses of idiocy when they engage in collective action? Why do financially sensible people jump lemming-like into hare-brained speculative frenzies--only to jump broker-like out of windows when their fantasies dissolve? We may think that the Great Crash of 1929, junk bonds of the '80s, and over-valued high-tech stocks of the '90s are peculiarly 20th century aberrations, but Mackay's classic--first published in 1841--shows that the madness and confusion of crowds knows no limits, and has no temporal bounds. These are extraordinarily illuminating,and, unfortunately, entertaining tales of chicanery, greed and naivete. Essential reading for any student of human nature or the transmission of ideas.
"The following work is devoted to an account of the characteristics of crowds. The whole of the common characteristics with which heredity endows the individuals of a race constitute the genius of the race. When, however, a certain number of these individuals are gathered together in a crowd for purposes of action, observation proves that, from the mere fact of their being assembled, there result certain new psychological characteristics, which are added to the racial characteristics and differ from them at times to a very considerable degree. Organised crowds have always played an important part in the life of peoples, but this part has never been of such moment as at present. The substitution of the unconscious action of crowds for the conscious activity of individuals is one of the principal characteristics of the present age."