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Commercial Association Public Relations

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An industry association that is strictly commercial, but still receives support from the press, radio and television because the product appeal to the public is so great and the public relations program so sound is the Greeting Card Association.

The Greeting Card Association has served as the mouth-piece of the industry for over thirty years and has played an important part in the growth of the industry. The mission of the Association as outlined by its longtime director, Steve Shannon, is to establish the use, purpose and significance of greeting cards as a means of communication. This is done on a modest budget. The results of Steve Shannon's public relations cannot be measured by the size of his budget. This is due partly to the glamour aspect of the industry, and also to the wisdom of its combined thrust.

Out of Steve Shannon's experience with the world of greeting cards, some basic rules have evolved:

  1. No press parties. For many years the Association held an annual Christmas party at the Waldorf Hotel called "The Wonderful World of Greeting Cards." A brilliantly staged production in which participating manufacturers displayed their cards and complimentary boxes were given out, and where liquor flowed lavishly to the invited press, radio and TV representatives, and assorted "opinion-makers," this party, according to Steve Shannon, drew countless testimonials. But expenses mounted. It was estimated each guest finally cost $18.00. And it was observed as well that the bosses weren't coming but were sending their secretaries. So "The Wonderful World of Greeting Cards" was dropped from the activity roster of the Greeting Card Association.

  2. "There's the merchandise!" is what counts. A realistic and down to earth approach is the best public relations. The press wants to know what you have to publicize; you show them. The product is the publicist.

  3. No releases that start out "Here's good news!" Strictly informational and educational material. No puff. And no trade names.

  4. Before each major holiday, such as Valentine's Day, Easter, Christmas, Halloween, etc., complete, newsworthy programs are offered to print and broadcast media. These contain background material. There is no advertising in these programs. The material has proved to be highly acceptable. All top women's page editors receive a complete package -the nucleus of a full page or half page of coverage. The package is sent to the editors' homes. When sent to the office it too often disappeared from the mail room.

  5. When the good of the industry is at stake, an association representative appears before the proper government committee. No lobbying is done.

  6. The Greeting Card Association says "thank you" to women of the print and broadcast media by acting as host at various luncheons, dinners or cocktail parties of women's conventions. This is an effective variation of the press party.

  7. 7.    The Greeting Card Association project that probably promotes the most good will is the distribution of free Christmas cards to all army and veterans hospitals throughout the world. (Christmas cards account for fifty percent of the greeting card business.) This program has been in effect for twenty-five years since it was initiated through contact with the army during World War II. Highly organized, it is carried on through cooperation with the U.S. Adjutant General's office of the United States and the Red Cross. Good public relations in wartime, this activity gets further mileage through its extension to peace time. All veteran and army hospitals are supplied with free Christmas cards whether there is a war or not. The approximate count up to now is 100,000,000 cards given out. Overseas shipments of these Christmas cards are made in summer.
This Greeting Card Association plan is masterful in its efficiency, economy and direction. Targets are chosen; years of experience and keen knowledge of the product determine what these targets are. The Greeting Card Association is an example of the best in trade public relations. The individual greeting card company promotes the individual product, and the image each company wants to establish. This is entirely apart from association promotion.

The greeting card industry operates as a single unit. It has a singular consumer-the average citizen. Another type of industry may have two or even more divisions that operate independently. And the products differ. In the case of the soap and detergent industry one set of products is sold through super markets and drugstores. These are the cakes of soap and packages of detergents bought by housewives. Promotion for this trade division is directed toward consumer publications, radio and television to be heard and seen by the average citizen. Its objective, like that of the greeting card association, is to promote good will for a consumer product and increase its use and sales.

In addition to the trade-oriented division of the Soap & Detergent association, there is an industrial and institutional division. The public relations program of this division is an example of good business tuned to the public welfare. Here is what is done by public relations associate, Kathleen Campbell, to encourage cleanliness and hygiene:
  1. The Annual Cleanliness Achievements Awards. $500.00 cash prizes are presented each year for the best entries in two categories: Hospitals and Schools. The two-fold aim of the Awards is to reward individuals in the institutional field who start and carry through new projects and innovations that contribute to the improvement of their overall maintenance program; and to raise standards of sanitation by creating a healthy climate of competition. Now firmly established as the leading contest in the institutional housekeeping field, the SDA Awards has contributed greatly to improving sanitation standards in hospitals and schools throughout the country.

  2. One article a year featuring an institutional market for detergents. Published by the trade paper, Detergent Age, they include Detergents in the Carwash Age, Detergents in the Jet age and Detergents in the Hospitality Age. Other articles are Down to the Sea in Clean Ships published by Modern Sanitation and Building Maintenance and Housekeeping at Cedar Point (an amusement park) printed in Amusement Business. Each of these articles features a plus point for the industry. For instance, Detergents in the Hospitality Age plays up the low cost of detergents in hotel maintenance. It is shown that only six cents out of every hotel maintenance dollar is spent for detergents; 19% goes for breakage and replacement; 19% for indirect costs; 8% for hot water and steam; and the lion's share, 48% for labor. Service has become an important part of the detergent industry picture; and Kathleen Campbell uses statistics to prove it. She writes "Labor being the most expensive part of the cleaning process, the only way to compete for the hotel/motel market is with a training program in dishwashing and housekeeping." (This training program comes as a bonus with the soaps and detergents.) She also points out the harm that is done hotel public relations by the one-half ounce bar of soap, and by the use of "brand X," and quotes from a survey showing that the paying guest prefers national brands, and that 75% of the responses indicated the hotel room bar of soap was too small.  The carwash article projects figures gathered by Mrs. Campbell and now commonly used within the industry. Estimating that the market for detergents for automatic car-washing will increase by over three million dollars in two years, and for coin car-washing by sixteen million dollars, she translates the figures into amounts and values of cleaning products, such as steam-cleaning compounds for bumpers and wheels, a mild high-foaming material for shampooing the chassis, a glass cleaner, a wheel cleaning material, an instant wax process injected into the final rinse, a special detergent for cleaning towels. She goes into the problem of water pollution, and the efforts of carwash operators and detergent manufacturers to wrestle with it. (This is a sensitive subject; it can't be ignored, but neither is it emphasized. The future public relations director will have to take a more positive position.)

  3. Surveys. One example is a survey on the incidence and control of occupational skin diseases during a period of one year. This survey was conducted among a number of companies in differing industries. Questionnaires were completed and returned by sixty-nine industrial medical directors representing 220,000 workers in about 100 plants. Results proved that occupational dermatitis can be kept to a minimum in plants where management conducts regular hygiene programs in addition to providing workers with proper skin cleaning materials and equipment.

  4. The SDA Industrial Institutional Division has an annual seminar. The PR job is to find the speakers and promote the event (a) to the members, (b) to the trade press. Each year a different theme is chosen.

  5. Speakers at other Associations' meetings are arranged for. The speech delivered is then offered for publication. For instance, a speech by a professor from Wayne State University School of Medicine was presented under the auspices of the Industrial Division Speakers Bureau of the SDA at a regional technical conference of the Society of Plastic Engineers.

  6. Worker educational visual aids are offered for use in trade papers and books. An example of their use is the reproduction of slides in an encyclopedic type book on industrial dermatitis.

  7. Speakers are found for the annual convention of the Soap and Detergent Association.

  8. Preparations of a bulletin called "Tips on Cleaning" using items taken from trade journals. This bulletin goes to about 3,000 institutional housekeepers, and the list is growing.

  9. Reportorial type stories. For instance, in McCall's Children's Wear Merchandiser a story was placed crediting the Soap & Detergent Association, titled "Suddenly It's Spring-Cleaning Time! Tips and tricks to keep your shop sparkling clean and inviting."

  10. Educational material for Institutional Sanitation Managers Industrial Health and Safety Directors. This consists of Management manuals and worker training aids, also posters.

  11. An SDA Industrial & Institutional Division Newsletter. This, like Tips on Cleaning, is made up of items reprinted from industrial magazines.

  12. Exhibits at trade shows such as the National Association of Sanitarians Education Conference, and the National Housekeepers Association Biennial Congress.
This list of activities adds up to an imaginative program which differs essentially from the program of the Greeting Card Association. Selecting a plan pleasing to the membership, and maintaining it, with constant updating, over a period of time is the over-all objective of the association PR director.
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