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Sixty Rings of Light along the 150 Foot High Mast

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A big, illuminated, three dimensional Weather Star was constructed atop the building. The star, by changing color, reports official forecasts of the United States Weather Bureau. A green light means sunny weather ahead; orange forecasts cloudy condition; flashing orange is for rain, and flashing white for snow.

It indicates temperature forecasts, the lights running up the mast if warmer weather is expected, and down the mast if temperatures are due to drop. In addition, electric "jump" clocks on four sides of the building beneath the mast show the correct time.

Advertisements, news items, telecasts and radio broadcasts, promotional literature, a motorized model of the star, and window displays about the aerial installation helped acquaint New Yorkers and visitors with the simple signals.

The entire effort to "build good will from a hole in the ground" drew continuous attention from the press and radio.

With the various problems and techniques available for making friends in the local community, how much can a company accomplish through the use of paid messages in the local newspaper?

No person in the public relations field would say that paid newspaper messages could completely solve community relation problems without other basic techniques being used. But assuming that a company has recognized its problems and is applying the proper techniques in solving them then it is very possible that such newspaper messages could become a very important "clincher" to a successful changing of attitudes.

Our company, Hardware Mutuals of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is a large national insurance firm with headquarters in a city with population of 17,000. We employ about 600 people in the city, have four prominent buildings one an exceptionally imposing structure.

 Kenneth Willett was graduated from Central State College, Stevens Point, and joined Hardware Mutuals in 1923. He is a past president of National Office Management Association; director, North Central Airlines; director, AMA; and 1956 president, PRSA, Wisconsin Chapter.

At first thought, this would appear to be a splendid setup for a community full of grateful friends, and no problems. But this was not exactly the case. Management sensed a possible division between the townspeople and the company and some years ago decided to do something about it. While there were a number of small things that may have contributed to the situation, it was felt that two factors were especially instrumental. They were:
  1. Because of the variety of specialized insurance skills demanded in our type of work, it was necessary for us to employ people from all sections of the country, from large cities, and from universities and colleges of special training. Knowing that Stevens Point grew up as a lumbering and mill town, and the center of an average farming area, it is understandable that the influx of strangers was not simple for the community to assimilate.

  2. The growing national prominence of Hardware Mutuals seemed to awe some of the other residents.
As a result of these two factors, and others less important, the company boiled down its actual problems as follows:
  1. The community as a whole did not understand the variety and technical phases of the insurance business.

  2. The community did not understand why we had the caliber of people we hired.

  3. Townspeople looked upon some of Hardware Mutuals' employees as though they were separate and distinct from the rest of the community.

  4. People were underestimating the value of the community to the company and the value of the company to the community.
At this point it is important to report that a large majority of Hardware Mutuals' people thoroughly enjoyed the Stevens Point life. Most of our people were sharing in civic and church activities. The company had consistently avoided any semblance of dominating the city, although it had always tried to do more than its corporate share toward progress. Therefore, it was apparent that our problem was combating a lack of understanding which apparently had been caused by a lack of proper communication.

This is where we found that paid messages in the local newspaper did an effective job for us.

Misunderstanding generally is the natural result of not knowing not knowing who the other fellow is, what he does, and why he does it. So we realized that we had to start from scratch. Our first messages were aimed at giving the facts on who our employees were, what their work included, reporting on some of their community service activities, the company's progress, and its effect on the community.

Our messages were full page layouts with a generous use of photographs and as little copy as possible. They were run once every 90 days. Perhaps the key line to these messages will best express the tone of them, and will summarize the idea of the messages.

"Hardware Mutuals Report to Their Home Town." "Your Friends and Neighbors at Hardware Mutuals." "What Your Friends and Neighbors Do in Hardware Mutuals." "Your Friends and Neighbors of Hardware Mutuals Lend a Hand to Hometown Activity."
"Stevens Point and Hardware Mutuals Have Grown Up Together."

"Any Day at Work or Play."

"Hardware Mutuals  a Hometown Business Provides Good neighbor Services."

"An Annual Report to Our Home Town." "Further Expansion in Our Home Town." "Stevens Point the Hub of Hardware Mutuals' Nationwide Organization."

Two years later, our approach switched to giving facts that would help to show that our people liked the community and were a working part of it, as can be seen by these key lines to the messages: "Swim with Safety."

"People from across the Nation Visit Our Home Town." "National Progress Benefits Stevens Point." "Children Play and Play Safe in Stevens Point." "You're Always Welcome at Hardware Mutuals."

More recently, our messages have been aimed at helping to build civic pride, showing our people with other local residents in community service, keeping the public informed of company progress, demonstrating that we are interested in, and willing to work for, industrial development in this area.

There is a natural question that arises as to how the success of such a newspaper messages are evaluated. We have made informal checks with people we know. Our informal checks have indicated that some messages have hit better than others, but over all, they have done a lot of good in building a relationship of understanding. Because such projects are never one way streets, we have been pleased to note the effect of the messages on our own people. Seeing the company philosophy expressed publicly in the newspaper has helped in creating understanding and raising morale among our employees.
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