International Understanding Through Communication

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When the Parker Pen Company of Janesville, Wisconsin, decided to build a new main plant, it loomed as a great table of opportunity set on the legs of several problems. The opportunity' was to dramatically cement community and employee relations by demonstrating via the new plant that Parker Pen "is a good place to work." The problems were in human relations, plus those generic to a corporation dedicated to a free flowing world trade philosophy.

At that time, the compiler of this book, Allen Center, was director of public relations at Parker. My own by line appeared over the company's publicity program and news articles. Together, we started planning for an event to take place one year later. It is almost impossible to begin planning a broad gauge plant dedication too early.



After selecting a theme "International Understanding Through Communication," we set about to help everyone in town, including employees, to "get into the act." Plans went beyond the hiring of as much local construction as possible. To begin with, the firm's chairman, Kenneth Parker, appointed a five man internal coordinating committee. On the committee where the company's executive vice president, Daniel Parker, the Parker vice presidents in charge of manufacturing and sales and, of course, two public relations representatives.

The fundamental problem from a public relations standpoint centered on the maintenance of multilateral communication pipelines between the company and its employees and the community. Since the building of the new plant would mean mainly good things to the small community, negative aspects could come only through lack of understanding.

There would be guesswork about the location of various departments in the new building. There would be apprehension about how the location would affect commuting and lunch hours. Employees might reason that a new building would bring new policies. The community would wonder about the final general appearance of the plant, its new transportation aspects, and its new tax role.

Under the new plant's public relations committee, the following information program took shape:
  1. Regular progress reports to employees through a house publication and bulletin board displays.

  2. Progress reports to the community through the local newspaper.

  3. Installation of a visitors' parking area on a hill site overlooking the construction, for "sidewalk superintendents on wheels."

  4. Placement in the visitors' parking area of a bulletin board, a mailbox for suggestions from outsiders, and free post cards depicting the plants finished appearance.

  5. Placement of a 24 sheet billboard at the plant site showing auto traffic the finished appearance of the plant. This billboard carried a "Report of Progress" section which was changed regularly to explain what workers were doing on the job at the time.

  6. Publication in the employees' magazine of questions sent in, along with answers. No questions were side stepped. Questions concerned everything from the selection of the contractor to whether employees would revert to punching time clocks at the new place. (They did not.)
Continuing the idea of dramatizing the partnership between management, employees, and the community, these steps were taken:
  1. The actual dedication of the structure was turned over to the community by the firm's management. The City Manager undertook chairmanship. At the event, he acted as master of ceremonies.

  2. A Citizens' Committee was formed by the City Manager to sponsor the Parker Pen Dedication Day ceremonies. On the committee were 23 members representing labor, agriculture, retail business, youth activities, charitable organizations, women's clubs, etc.

  3. A spectator event was planned for Dedication Day. An idea of Daniel Parker, executive vice president, gave the pen company its central dedication symbol. It involved procuring large, handsome native stones from all the free nations of the world for a unique "Path of Nations." Extending across the width of the building, the colorful pathway was to symbolize the task of handwriting in contributing to enlightenment, trade, and understanding the world over. It took the place of the usual cornerstone.

  4. A contest was inaugurated among the city's school children to name the new plant. Winner received a university scholarship. The name chosen Arrow Park was to lend a character and warmth that a mere numerical street designation could never provide. The interest of thousands of school agers was generated in this way.

  5. To further extend participation in the community, the Parker employee body was given time off to witness the afternoon event. Schools were dismissed and a "Parker Pen Dedication Day" was proclaimed by the city fathers.
The Veterans organizations handled the flag raising the Girl Scouts' chorus sang; the Boy Scouts ushered and distributed souvenir booklets; local police and the Junior Chamber of Commerce handled traffic; the High School Band played an international musical medley. At the last moment, the U.S. Air Force entered the picture with a majestic "pass" by jet planes from a nearby air base.

As plans for the dedication firmed up, the press was integrated. It proved significant nationally that a typical mid-west community was not merely interested in the international outlook; but was

Demonstrating it:


To assist in press coverage of the event, the Parker people offered three aircraft to fly press members to and from Chicago and Milwaukee. An unusually tasty "Globalunch" buffet of dozens of foreign dishes was served visiting press. Reporters were given a preview visit to the new plant several hours before the ceremony.

Officials of the Citizens' Committee and the firm answered questions of the newsmen. News kits of information, photos, and programming were distributed. At the ceremonies, the press had a special platform facing the speakers for photographic work. Press room facilities were located within convenient reach of the working reporters. The company's own photographer made a newsreel like movie which was sent later to Parker foreign subsidiaries and branches for employee showings.

On the day of dedication the plant was already taking shape as a beautiful, all white brick edifice of admirable, simple, and modern design that was later to win architectural awards and be cited as one of industry's outstanding plant facilities.

Speeches were short and to the point. Kenneth Parker spoke on the contributions in good neighbor ship and friendship made by the community to the company through six decades. Speaking of the international nature of the firm's business he said: "Two way trade with foreign nations, with an advantage and a profit at both ends, is the only really practicable way to attain peace on this earth. Two individuals, or two communities, or two nations who mutually profit from trading with each other, do not tend to quarrel or go to war." The quotation was picked up and widely circulated by the press.

The president of the firm, Bruce M. Jeffry, spoke on the significance of the "Path of Nations" as a dedication symbol. Daniel Parker awarded the scholarship for naming the plant to a Janesville high school student.

During the ceremony, the Path of Nations was screened off from the view of the crowd of several thousand spectators by a tarpaulin. Following the dedicatory messages, the electrically operated covering was removed by a switch on the speakers' stand.

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