At the top of a public relations department or independent counseling organization are the executives who manage and direct. In a large organization the department head is assisted by deputies, the number depending on the activity. In independent counseling organizations, a board of directors and officers or the partners direct. Numbers of executive and administrative personnel vary with the operation. Designated executives act as liaison between the counseling organization and the client.
In the creative department a wide range of activities goes on. In the larger independent counseling organizations, hundreds of people may function in varied occupational pursuits. They may analyze surveys, develop plans of action, or communicate opinions, ideas, or recommendations in the written or spoken word. Their product-recommendation, instruction, suggestion, speech, report, book, booklet, broadside, exhibit, picture-must convey clearly the message that will contribute to the specific solution of a public relations problem. The creative function includes thinking out and passing on of advice to the principal on behavior or action to help meet goals. Community relations, stockholder relations, and the whole gamut of publics involved in the public relations process are so treated.
Some organizations have a director of public information who is in charge of contacts with the media. There may also be a director of community relations who is responsible for dealing with the community on matters of mutual interest. There may be a consumer relations director, who supervises those relationships, and a director of publications, who oversees the preparation of printed matter. There may also be a research department, which gathers facts, including public opinion analyses.
Activities with direct dependence on the public have more openings than those with smaller special publics. The public utilities and the food business, whose customers are everybody and retailers such as department stores are especially aware of their need for public relations. So are nonprofit organizations such as the human service organizations in the field of health and welfare, boards of trade, labor unions, institutions of learning, and government at all levels. Financial institutions, banks, insurance companies, and investment houses want to have sound relations with their publics.
Financial openings have grown since the establishment of the Securities and Exchange Commission and legislation to protect the investor. The survival of the finance capitalist system depends on the trust people have in it. Good public relations in action and acceptance and understanding of that action can play a vital role in establishing and maintaining that trust.
The beginner should decide whether a career as an independent counselor or a public relations employee is the goal. As in medicine, persons entering public relations should decide early whether becoming a specialist or a generalist best suits then temperament. A generalist encompasses a variety of activities. The generalist must be a good administrator, for whether in profit or nonprofit activity he or she will need to supervise the work of those in specialized activities such as research, writing, editing, printing supervision, advertising, or community relations. He or she must know what these people should do, how they should do it, when they should do it, and how to inspire and direct them.
The generalist must know when to call in a specialist, who gains perfection to the highest degree in a particular field of the profession. He or she must master one area of the many in the public relations field, whether education, finance, government, health and human welfare, education, or another area.
The choice whether to be a specialist or generalist should be made by a person after an appraisal of his or her inclinations and what gives the greatest satisfaction. Most people find greater satisfaction in becoming specialists than generalists. It seems to me that fewer people prefer to cover a wide range of knowledge than the number who prefer to specialize in one area.
This is the era of equal opportunity for all, and the women's movement has made great headway, and rightly so, in helping to bring this about. But even today prejudice against women prevails in most fields except those considered women's work, such as teaching, home economics, and the like. As my wife observed in her memoirs, A Wife Is Many Women, people still think a girl baby is born with a broom in her mouth. This is still a man's world. Many men in business and other vocations-particularly in the higher echelons-consider women not equal to men in judgment, understanding, and general ability. A tycoon will listen to a woman when she discusses cooking or washing machines, but not if she talks about locomotives, steel production, or chemicals. The higher up you go, the more you meet sex antagonism. In business and finance, women today do reach high places.
Women do make good in public relations, but to gain equal status today they must be better than the men with whom they compete, except in fields already associated in the public mind with women. Women will find it easier to make headway if they seek public relations activity in department stores, textiles, dresses, retailing, areas in which goods are sold to women, and in nonprofit fields such as social welfare, nursing, education, home economics, and government. But today women practitioners can go as far as their talents and experience permit in any field-if they are a little better than the male competition. In women's fields they go further than men.