Creel Committee

George Creel

In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson, concerned about widespread anti-war sentiment, asked George Creel to head a new government agency whose job was to make the war popular. The Committee on Public Information, better known as the Creel Committee, cranked out news releases, magazine pieces, posters, and even movies. A list of 75,000 local speakers was put together to talk nationwide at school programs, church groups, and civic organizations about making the world safe for democracy. More than 15,000 committee articles were printed. Never before had public relations been attempted on such a scale, but it worked. World War I became a popular cause even to the point of inspiring people to buy Liberty Bonds, putting up their own money to finance the war outside the usual taxation apparatus.

Office of War Information When World War II began, an agency akin to the Creel Committee was formed, and veteran journalist Elmer Davis was put in charge. The new Office of War Information was public relations on a bigger scale than ever before. The Creel and Davis war

operations employed hundreds of people. For instance, Davis had 250 employees handling news releases alone. Mostly young, these staff members carried new lessons about public relations into the private sector after the war. These were the people who shaped corporate public relations as we know it today.

8.3.4 Corporate Public Relations 1. Objective: Describe public relations responsibilities within an organization

When giant AT&T needed somebody to take over public relations in 1927, the president of the company went to magazine editor Arthur Page and offered him a vice presidency. Before accepting, Page laid out several conditions. One condition was that he would have a voice in AT&T policy making. Page’s requirement was based on his experience of seeing too many corporations that regarded their public relations arm merely as an executor of policy. Page considered public relations itself as a management function. To be effective, Page knew he must contribute to the making of high-level corporate decisions as well as executing them.

Today, experts on public relations agree with Arthur Page’s concept: When institutions are making policy, they need to consider the effects on their many publics, including intended and unintended consequences. This is best accomplished when the person in charge of public relations, ideally at the vice presidential level, is intimately involved in decision-making. The public relations executive advises the rest of the institution’s leaders on public perceptions and the effects that policy options might have on perceptions. Also, the public relations vice president is in a better position to implement the institution’s policy for having been a part of developing it.

No two institutions are organized in precisely the same way. At General Motors (GM), 200 people work in public relations. In smaller organizations, public relations may be one of several hats worn by a single individual who also manages marketing and other similar functions. Except in the smallest operations, the public relations department usually has three functional areas of responsibility.

Public Relations Department Responsibilities

External. Public relations helps organizations engage with groups and people

outside the organization, including customers, dealers, suppliers, and community leaders and policy makers.

Internal. Organizations need internal communication for optimal relations among employees, managers, unions, shareholders, and other internal constituencies. In- house newsletters, magazines, brochures, and, more recently, an intranet are common elements in internal public relations.

Media. For communication with large groups, organizations rely largely on mass media. It is media relations people who respond to news reporters’ queries, arrange news conferences, issue statements to the news media, and often serve as an organization’s spokespersons.

Writing Prompt Apply Your Media Literacy: Roots of Public Relations

How has the history of the public relations profession influenced the role and responsibilities of today’s public relations agencies?

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