Corporation Publicity.

Corporation Publicity.

It is an admitted fact that a large proportion of the public clamor against the public service corporation is originated by local politicians, and is made possible only because the common people are not posted as to the facts pertaining to the corporation and its relation to the public. As a practical illustration, here is a private company that has always given satisfactory service, but some crafty politician conceives the idea that an open attack against this company may perhaps be a winning campaign cry. His first move is to publicly proclaim that the company is making exorbitant profits and charging excessive rates for the service. He proves his statement by assuming a ridicuously small value for the company’s property, and soon convinces his audience that the property is nothing but junk, and that the public is entitled to lower rates, even if a municipal plant must be advocated to accomplish this result. Thus it is, that the first impressions of the common people are erroneous, based upon a misrepresentation of the facts. This leads to a continued strife which ultimately results in the depreciation of the company’s securities, and perhaps in a more or less complete destruction of its commercial vlaite. The remedy is purely a problem in psychology. When the campaign orator makes a statement concerning which his audience has no previous information, a certain percentage of the people will accept the statement as true, and many will repeat the argument as their own, simply to convince their associates that this candidate for office is a man of sound judgment and a friend of the common people. But if through a properly conducted system of publicity, the common people had secured their first impression in the right direction, having the facts properly presented by the company’s own experts before the politicians have succeeded in making the subject a campaign issue, it is doubtful if the politician will ever succeed in inflaming public sentiment against the company. The reason is obvious; for the audience hearing the statements contrary to their former impression of the facts, will incline to discredit the speaker rather than to accept unchallenged his misrepresentation. Great caution must be used in the preparation of data for a publicity campaign. It should be undertaken only by an expert in valuation, and appraisal work, who is also experienced in that varied and intricate study—human nature. He must also possess the ability to write clearly and express his arguments logically and forceably. It should be remembered that the presentation of an analysis of a public service company’s operations in such a manner as to show the justice of its rates, involves a valuation of its property as an intermediate step, but it is not essential that the actual valuation appear as a part of the publicity campaign; and in fact is perhaps not advisable that it should appear directly in some instances, but should preferably be distributed into the dements comprising the cost of the service. In many cases the public service company is forced to make a valuation of its property as a defensive, measure after the politicians have succeeded in making it a political issue. In this event the situation is much more difficult, as the opposing parties are then arrayed against each other, the public press is divided on the issue, and the truth is discredited by one side if not by both, until the common people are entirely at sea and unable to distinguish between the statements that arc true and those that are false. This is a deplorable situation from the public view point and that of the company as well, and one that can be obviated by a properly conducted publicity campaign inaugerated in advance of any public agitation of the subject. Paradoxical as it may seem, the fact remains, that such a campaign is least expensive and most valuable when no necessity for it is apparent.

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