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IVY LEE: A FATHER OF MODERN PUBLIC RELATIONS



Ivy Ledbetter Lee was a former Wall Street reporter who plunged into publicity work in 1903. Lee believed in neither Barnum's the-public-be-fooled approach nor Vanderbilt's the-public-be-damned philosophy. For Lee, the key to business acceptance and under­standing was that the public be informed. Lee firmly believed that the only way business could answer its critics convincingly was to present its side honestly, accurately, and forcefully.9 Instead of merely appeasing the public. Lee thought a company should strive to earn public confidence and good will. Sometimes this task meant looking further for mutual solutions. At other times, it even meant admitting that the company was wrong. Hired by the anthracite coal industry in 1906, Lee set forth his beliefs in a Declaration of Principles to newspaper editors:

This is not a secret press bureau. All our work is done in the open. We aim to supply news. This is not an advertising agency; if you think any of our matter ought properly to go to your business office, do not use it. Our matter is accurate. Further details on any subject treated will be supplied promptly, and any editor will be assisted most cheerfully in verify­ing any statement of fact.... In brief, our plan is frankly and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public institutions, to supply to the press and public of the United States prompt and accurate information concerning subjects, which are of value and interest.

In 1914, John D. Rockefeller, jr., who headed one of the most maligned and misun­derstood of America's wealthy families, hired Lee. As Lee's biographer Ray Eldon Hiebert has pointed out. Lee did less to change the Rockefellers' policies than to give them a public hearing.10 For example, when the family was censured scathingly for its role in breaking up a strike at the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, the family hired a labor relations expert (at Lee's recommendation) to determine the causes of an incident that had led to several deaths. The result of this effort was the for­mation of a joint labor-management board to mediate all workers' grievances on wages, hours, and working conditions. Years later, Rockefeller admitted that the public relations outcome of the Colorado strike "was one of the most important things that ever happened to the Rockefeller family."

In working for the Rockefellers, Lee tried to humanize them, to feature them in real-life situations such as playing golf, attending church, and celebrating birthdays. Simply, Lee's goal was to present the Rockefellers in terms that every individual could under­stand and appreciate. Years later, despite their critics, the family came to be known as one of the nation's outstanding sources of philanthropic support.

But even Ivy Lee could not escape the glare of public criticism. In the late 1920s, Lee was asked to serve as adviser to the parent company of the German Dye Trust, which, as it turned out, was an agent for the policies of Adolf Hitler. When Lee realized the nature of Hitler's intentions, he advised the Dye Trust cartel to work to alter Hitler's ill-conceived policies of restricting religious and press freedom. For his involve­ment with the Dye Trust, Lee was branded a traitor and dubbed "Poison Ivy" by mem­bers of Congress investigating un-American activities. The smears against him in the press rivaled the most vicious ones against the robber barons. Despite his unfortunate involvement with the Dye Trust, Ivy Lee is recognized as the individual who brought honesty and candor to public relations. Lee, more than anyone before him, transformed the field from a questionable pursuit (i.e., seeking positive pub­licity at any cost) into a professional discipline designed to win public confidence and trust through communications based on openness and truth.

2.Find the sentences with the international words and explain their meaning in English.

 

Answer the questions.

1. Where did Lee set forth his beliefs?

2. What are they?

 

4.Read and translate Lee’s beliefs.

 

5.Give a short characteristic to Ivy Lee.

 

6.Compose a dialogue with your partner on any problem from the history of public relations given in the texts.

 

II

 

1. 1. Read the text paying attention to your time of reading.

 

ETHICS AND PROFESSIONALISM

Legal and ethical issues are closely related in public relations practice; however, they are not identical. Even when no violation of law can be proven, a practitioner can be sanctioned for unethical conduct under the code of PRSA. The history of public relations is filled with allegations and confirmations of unethical behavior, while this may be no different from any other profession; public relations practitioners are especially sensitive to any suggestion of misconduct. This sensitivity may exist because a public relation is frequently called on to be the source of ethical statements and policies for an organization.

To help provide guidance in ethical decisions, both PRSA and the IABC have established codes for ethical behavior. While both encourage professionals to demostrate a commitment to ethical behavior, only PRSA has an enforcement procedure.

Ethical questions often arise in professional relationships with clients, news media, financial analysts, and others. Increased professionalization is one possible answer to question raised regarding ethical practice. Even with the legislative force of licensure, though, ethical practice is still a function of individuals.





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