Industrial PR Diversification

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Industrial PR includes durable goods at the processing end. Omitting consumer products, the marketing process resembles the consumer level except that its goods and services are either tools or other capital goods, or become a part of another product. PR is not new here: community programs and publicity go back at least into the 1920's when labor made the original widespread organizing effort in industry. Early industrial marketing PR is amply recorded in at least 50 industrial and technical magazine files in the 1920's when 100 page issues were common.

With its long history industrial PR has not moved along since World War II at anything near the pace of its glamorous counterpart: corporate PR. To some degree that may be justified: corporate PR grew on the fantastic remapping of all facets of the economic entity: mergers, acquisitions and the multitude of new shapes and identities. But behind most corporate reshuffles there is somewhere a profit and loss situation that can be traced to the plants and the mills. We will say only that industrial PR is diversified, and that may be its best reason for being an excellent career opportunity.

For PR purposes the industrial unit should be divided into three segments: management, production (personnel) and business (marketing). While some captive divisions may produce entirely for other divisions, having no sales, the highly competitive nature of industrial marketing has given its PR a high position.

The new element in the foregoing outline of a full service industrial PR structure is shown in the three working areas as, respectively: leadership for management, for personnel and for marketing business.

By grouping the new PR responsibilities acknowledged widely as problems and issues that perforce are a part of industry today, we can outline specific major issues in the patterns now developing at the outset of the 1970's.

The volatile and potentially costly nature of social involvement issues makes it mandatory for PR to forecast degrees of public pressures on hard issues, and to alert management in advance to looming pressures.

Getting Management Leadership Excited

Because the PR technique is essentially an offensive one, once the issue (involvement) is identified, PR should plan for its recommendations to excite management leadership. To discuss this less familiar aspect definitively, the balance of this industrial PR discussion will be largely confined to it.

PR should develop its own listing of issues problems and potentials. The apparently most durable national/local issue is pollution. We show it below in both local issues and in more remote national issues.

Community Issues:
  • Pollution

  • Housing

  • Drug Addiction

  • Race & Poverty

  • Education & Aid to Education (policy): training, work study, scholarships

  • Community Medical Facilities

  • Inflation

  • Taxation

  • Traffic

  • Wage & Price Control

  • Deflation

  • Redevelopment (urban/community)

  • Urban Youth
To the above 15 or so community related issues should be added the National Issues as "awareness" factors:

  • Vietnam

  • Pollution

  • Law & Order

  • Race Relations

  • Population (explosion)

  • Foreign War Threats

  • Student Disorder

  • Consumer Protection

  • Underdeveloped Nations

  • Union Power

  • Government Spending

  • Morality (of the times)

  • Constitutional Rights

  • National Goals

Pursuing pollution as an issue for which national and local guidelines are shaping up, we can proceed to form a project with an action proposal. Outline:

Pollution Abatement Basis of Company involvement:

Our plant treated sewage feeds into Beaver River. We are not culpable now; but water is badly polluted; municipality worst offender; of eight plants feeding sewage, three are in violation. Unwarranted, but their defense is that all are in violation.

Status of Law & Public Interest:

Governor has named study committee to have power to charge violators. Now conducting engineering studies of all water. Only local committee is Chamber of Commerce Water 8c Recreation Committee.
Purpose of a Company Position and Action:

Long term outlook is that pollution will be major pressure area for at least ten years. Vast correction needs in state estimated at $4 billion.

Strong PR benefits seen in taking leadership in forming industry study group and engineering committee to be liaison with state, local and civic groups who will become more active.
  • First Discussion Activity

  • Tentative Activity (Subject to discussion)

  • Description: Luncheon Meeting in Company Dining Room

  • Purpose: Short cut means of getting immediate reading on line up of interests: for "study" vs. "action."

  • Guests: Community industry general managers, municipal head and engineer; one or two known anti pollution activists (school chemist, church leader, etc.)

  • Host: John W. Smith, President, Acorn, Inc. (our General Mgr)

  • Theme: "Practical Ways to Restore Beaver River"
Outline: Five minute opening statement by Mr. Smith: "We have been concerned at increasing pollution of Beaver River. Gratified to see that city is taking steps to formulate a program.

"This group is concerned with corrective measures. Most of us have been told that the new State Pollution Board will conduct hearings here; but, as far as we know, no one has been invited to testify.

"The municipality undoubtedly will be proceeding with the treatment plant corrections: I understand it is practically worthless. A casual inquiry showed that of our eight industrial companies three do not have adequate facilities. The others may need repairs or replacements; other factors are six or seven camp sites and two semi farm houses near the county line above here. "Speaking for Acorn, Inc., we appear to have a suspicious leak in our waste system that is now being evaluated for correction.

"The foregoing summary was based on information Tom Jones, our personnel director, collected in personal talks with you people, or with others in our organizations. "In calling this get together, it occurred to me that each of us should know the timetable of others involved in the corrections we are all agreed must be made to clean up the river.

"I would like each of you to give me a brief statement as to whether or not his organization's position is unfairly represented in my summary. We will not do much here today, but we should establish a communications base." In a PR plan to open up all aspects of a broad problem area the aim should be to establish mutuality without specific statements permitting disagreement. Acorn would have three persons attending: Mr. Smith, Tom Jones and the PR head. As the meeting progresses, Tom, or someone else, might suggest that a permanent industry/civic study committee be formed to "prepare data to be available for studies." Mr. Smith would be named chairman.

As such issues arise, industrial PR should evaluate the local situation and decide together with the managers of the departments concerned whether or not the company manager should become "leader."

On Broad Issues Make Advance Evaluations

With social involvement attitudes now widely recognized as corporate and industrial community matters, the questions of propriety and feasibility will not soon be uniformly settled: the basic change is that industry has stood up to be counted. While management should be identified as concerned, it is not always proper to be conspicuously a leader in explosive matters. However, when a long term and difficult situation such as pollution is involved, culpable companies should become active at the start: unless a specific company is the major offender.

No issue that affects the lives of plant community people should be too hot for PR. But it should not jump into new issues unless they can be used to assist in creating a leadership image. Essential for success in any involvement issue is to study it early, discuss it with colleagues in affected departments and review it with management for early position.

For the past generation industry in most communities has been the bulwark of building the United Fund organizations into effective vehicles. More important for specific companies: they have a rather painless formula for employee participations. PR should be represented in company participation, even though the program may be a personnel activity. Where PR and personnel are integrated, the plan should be developed on two tacks: 1) internal, employee participation; 2) company/management participation.

PR in industry should represent the company on the working and publicity group for the campaign. The materials are well standardized. In most communities the trend is toward in plant campaigns, and to homes by mail.
PR should guard company interest in having full representation on top community committee. If Acorn manager is the head man, PR should represent him on publicity, etc., when possible.

The United Fund is a standard and invariably necessary aspect of industrial PR. Companies that once conducted it as an internal subject in personnel now make it a public matter in PR. Companies are forced into unwanted involvements, and they should make maximum capital of favorable ones.

Central PR Must Represent All Divisions

Where PR is a management service, either departmental or staff, it has considerable leeway for serving operating departments without abandoning its planned programs. Where it is integrated into either personnel or marketing, the tendency is to give its home department priority on services. In any event, if the central PR is to achieve all around results, no matter where it is based, it should plan to adequately represent all divisions.

Industrial marketing is being upgraded and streamlined from many archaic practices that go back to World War I. The face to face sales representatives, either company staff or outside representatives, are not as important to modern marketing as they were when most products and services were being pioneered. That means that communications techniques and market research have a bigger role. Purchasing agents also have changed. Their role is now oriented to evaluations and reliability aspects of products and services.

PR has always been industry's publicity source. But media also have changed: generally, technical and scientific publications are interested in "depth" treatments, rather than the surface "how to do it" methods. Many major companies encourage publicity only on established techniques, in marketing methods, and for new models or new products. However, in planning the PR aspect for marketing, PR can enhance its importance greatly by taking on the communications collateral to advertising and to strategic market factors.

Letter Writing Highly Specialized

Even in the large industrial companies few executives have the ability to write to prospects and customers about new aspects of the company's business. Letter writing has become highly specialized in the direct marketing field, thus broadening the gap between its quality and competing communications in the mail. Here are some suggestions to bear in mind when working on innovation related mail materials:

The greatest sense of failure in "list" mailings is the list itself: industrial mailers normally use their own prospect lists; and customer lists. These should have executive attention for cleaning up before each use. When a letter arrives in an office addressed to a deceased member of the company, it is more likely to alienate a successor than to win him.

In case of major innovations new products or services, sharply advanced new models, etc. letters should go from general management to general management of customers and prospects. Don't have letters from sales head addressed to general manager, except to very much smaller companies. Never have president's signature on letters to sales executive, unless you are very small and they are very big.

Letter rule is: job to job; title to title. Always to equals. In letters to management do not enclose specification sheets unless you want the letter to be handed on to engineering before the manager even looks at it.

All the foregoing is subject to exceptions. Example: engineering and tooling companies usually are made up of entirely interchangeable executives at every level. President is engineer, etc.

Style of Letter: All sales letters state the entire proposition in the first sentence, or in the first paragraph.
Enclosure of self addressed postage paid cards is always good business and good form, regardless of recipient.
Letters for top management should be written on noncommercial stationery. Embossed lettering O.K. is not necessary. Industrial PR invariably covers many fields, functions and areas of operations that are divided departmentally in big retailing and consumer industries. In order to get a representative program activated for each area, each should be planned at the year's outset. If each is to have a budgeted cost, that should show when the over all program is submitted for approval. Industrial PR is growing in importance, but the practitioner must have plans to show why his programs are necessary.


Industrial PR deals with leadership for management, for personnel and for marketing.
This type of PR should take the offensive in all community campaigns unless a specific company is under fire. The only necessary standard program for all industrial PR is the United Fund campaign.


What is best procedure for getting company leadership in a civic betterment campaign?
How is the United Fund drive programmed within the company?
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