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Status Public Relation

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Travel has grown to such proportions in recent years that no matter how far a country is from the centers of population, it can set its sights on the tourist dollar. The construction of a Holiday Inn or a Hilton Hotel in Cambodia, for instance, will enable a local journalist to say "In ten years tourism will be the country’s primary source of wealth, even outranking rice and rubber exports." Here is a recent statistic: in one year more than 91,000,000 individuals spent $141.13 billion on visits to more than 100 countries. To attract this tourism, $300,000,000 was spent on advertising and promotion.

It is not only the numbers of world travelers that are multiplying. A recent newspaper story starts out: "The sport of skiing is currently undergoing a severe case of growing pains, but it's the ski buff who's got the bellyache. Overcrowded resorts, congested slopes, long lift lines, thievery and the high cost of equipment head the list of complaints most frequently aired by ski enthusiasts today. The comment of a spokesman for the United States Ski Association is "New areas have to be opened..."

This over crowding, and discontented travelers, is resulting in a new "status" form of travel which required "status public relations." By status travel is meant individualized travel, which may or may not be combined with sports. It is not necessarily expensive, but being "individual or different" requires professional help. For many years almost everyone wanted to do the same things when they traveled, in a more or less costly way. There has always been the grand tour as opposed to the budget tour but both groups visited the same monuments and saw the same sights by moonlight.

To meet today's travel needs, perceptive pioneers in the field of individualized and "meaningful" travel have started group plans. Most people prefer being individual with other people of similar backgrounds to being individual alone.

These group travel plans serve more than one purpose. They offer a unique experience in travel; they also bring people together. For hundreds of years people have gone on trips hoping to meet and make friends; mass transportation has become so impersonal that this result is difficult. These new travel groups are intimate and personal, and ego building. They make people feel important in a civilization which no longer does this.

Backed up by status public relations they give people the pleasure of being part of a cohesive crowd, and therefore socially desirable. Since these groups differ from institutional travel, their public relations approach must differ from conventional travel PR or publicity. Thos. Cook & Son's reenactment of their first Swiss tour, for instance, was planned to attract millions to the services of that firm. The new travel clubs aim to be selective; their news stories, therefore, are written in a way that will make them suitable for magazines and newspapers that will reach the type of person who will best fit into the group they are discussing. One club, the Chalet Club, describes its purpose in this way.

"The Chalet Club, founded fifteen years ago by pioneers in the skiing movement, has continually represented a meaningful use of leisure time. The romance and excitement of a swift descent down a majestic snow covered Alp has always been an experience that could leave a man brimming with a sense of well being.

"It was for the active man that the Club was formed, a man who found pleasure reaching out for the rewards of a challenge well met, a man who found great joy and great meaning in coming to grips with the forces of nature in nature's setting and on nature's terms be it sailing on the wind's highway with a lively well tuned yacht or a sensitive thoroughbred sail plane be it exploring the realm of nature's birds while diving through the sky or exploring the world of nature's fish while diving to the ocean's bottom.

"It is to this end that the Chalet Club further dedicates itself to the further creation of a means by which one can extend one's self beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary."

This is status public relations. It appeals to the reader as a sensitive man; it sets him apart; it places him in a super society. At the same time it flatters him, it makes every woman who reads the above statement want to meet him.

The three paragraphs are an introduction to a brochure. As usual, a brochure performs many promotional tasks. In addition to emphasizing the atmosphere in which the Chalet Club operates, it links the club with society and gives it status.

Following the introduction to the Chalet Club brochure is a page of photographs taken at a cocktail party in the Club president's New York apartment. No names are given, but the photographs are evidence that this is an "in" party, and that not all the time of Chalet Club members is given over to sport.

The Bon Voyage party pictures are followed by pages of captioned photographs of:
  1. Alpine aerial sightseeing.

  2. European glacial skiing.

  3. Alpine parachuting.

  4. Mountain climbing.

  5. Hotel accommodations these include the "center of Après Ski Life" in St. Anton, Austria; and The Palace in St. Moritz, Switzerland, listed in Fielding's Travel Guide to Europe as the "number one resort hotel he has seen in the world."

  6. Portillo, Chile/ Summer skiing.

  7. Weeknight skiing/ski swap.

  8. Sugar bush Stratton super bus.

  9. West skiing/skeet and trap shooting.

  10. Soaring.

  11. Alpine ballooning.

  12. Sport parachuting.

  13. Aviation training.

  14. Black Pearl. (This is die name of a "brigantine" or sailing ship the Chalet Club chartered from which to watch die start of the Transatlantic Yacht Race from Newport, Rhode Island to Cork, Ireland.)

  15. Cruising the Greek Isles.

  16. Shenandoah. (The only commercial square rigger sailing under the American flag, chartered for a one week sail to historic seaports Nantucket, Mystic, etc.)

  17. America's Cup Race.

  18. Bermuda weekend.

  19. Jamaica Thanksgiving weekend.

  20. Nassau scuba weekend.

  21. Allagash canoe trip.

  22. Colorado River (on a rubber raft).

  23. Antarctic expedition.

  24. African safari.

  25. Canal tour of France.

  26. Wine gourmet tour of France.

  27. Bahamas fishing tournament.

  28. Expeditions (for the future) include underwater exploration and archeological digs.
To a venture like the Chalet Club, with a nucleus of "beautiful people" for members, status publicity may seem to come easily. Actually, status publicity demands great skill. The PR man or woman is walking a tightrope; he or she must take care not to be openly commercial. This is usually done through devotion to worthy causes. According to Jan Taylor, PR director for the Chalet Club, ambitious parties given by the club, or other ventures in the same category, support some kind of charity or civic undertaking.

Status public relations is not confined to sport or travel. It came from a special need described this way by Esquire: "More and more people need help who don't have any background or roots."

Status publicity in its purely social form consists of helping people with money who want to be accepted by other people who don't need such help. Charity balls and travel under the right auspices are used to do the trick. A master in the field is Gustavus Ober who says in an announcement of a new Palm Beach branch:

"The firm, which specializes in Status publicity, has already lined up a number of important clients in the area including the Colony Hotel, the new Voisin restaurants, Skitch Henderson's Orchestras, and the $1,000 a plate United Fund Dinner at Miami's Palm Bay Club, the Flamingo Ball for the American Cancer Society at Hialeah and the Heart Association Ball in Miami."

Mr. Ober continues "...while its main offices remain in New York, the company thinking is resort oriented." He explained that resort hotels and other leisure time products were the future emphasis of Gustavus Ober Associates, and that his interest in farther out places led him to contact spots in the Indian Ocean.

Since travel and recreation are related, the broad public relations plan that implemented a Department of Parks program in New York City seems appropriate here. The theme of this program is just the opposite of status publicity. The publicity releases issued by the Department of Parks explains: "The happenings' as they are sometimes called, are 'experimental public games, restricted to no one, and are designed to create situations that probe the environment we live in by the six (or seven) senses.'"

A program called "Events in Open Air" planned by five community parks included besides "happenings," a "two day unprecedented type of festival in Central Park." Other events in preparation were community affairs consisting of experimentation with shape and space, motion and time, plus color and light. The means of expression and discovery ranged from improvised grid paintings, with each participant contributing crayon, paint or construction paper to communal creations, to a neighborhood collage in which photographs of people and places in the area will be mounted and displayed along with unrestricted scribbles.

In addition to "Events in Open Air," the Parks program featured a giant puppet festival, developed with the co operation of community groups and neighborhood children. The giant puppet festival included four individual festivals, each of which featured slapstick and puppet shows as well as booths and games throughout the park. A dragon parade through the main streets of the neighborhood heralded the show.

This whole operation, with all its parts only a few of which are mentioned here is a public relations concept with the purpose of winning attention and friendship from the public and from industry for the city's children; and emphasizing the lack of recreational facilities in New York City.

Working out this program consisted mostly in persuading artists, merchants and directors to contribute their skills, time and money. The merchants, for instance, for "Events in the Open Air" contributed Oragami paper, Magic Markers, ribbon, crayons, scissors, paint, and other materials. Pepsi Cola sponsored a youth talent festival. A sports festival, also in the same group, was sponsored by Buy Rite Discount Stores.

Apart from the festival, another Park Department achievement in public relations was the building of a play pavilion in a slum area park the first of five pavilions planned for each of the five New York City boroughs. Material and design for the pavilion were contributed by the U.S. Plywood Corp. A contemporary version of a Victorian summer house, it serves as a model for do it yourself carpenters, and can be used either as a tree house by children or a small bandstand or stage for local recreation activities. A vest pocket park contributed to the city by N.Y. Telephone Co. was another addition to the city's recreational facilities.

Civic gifts, large and small, must be "promoted." In very few cases do they come in naturally. Generally the idea and the need for a specific facility are coupled. Residents demand more play space for their children. More play space creates a need for more play things. Somewhere within the civic organization a public relations minded individual starts looking around for donors for these facilities. Once the gift is penciled in either as an outright gift or a guarantee of money, the flow of publicity starts, first as a trickle, a bare announcement acquainting the press and public with the news, and culminating finally in some appropriate gesture of acceptance.
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