Ivy Lee was hired by the Rockefellers to cleanse the reputation of Standard Oil. Lee was hard pressed to change Standard Oil’s negative image in the public eye however, because the Rockefellers severely limited what he could do for public relations work. While working in Public relations, Lee said that the new idea of public interest and corporation policy intertwining was called a “two-way street”. Lee was never able to achieve the goal of the two-way street though, because few industrial owners felt like they needed to move in that direction.

At the turn of the century, AT&T wanted to create a monopoly over telephone service in the United States. In order to achieve this, it was believed that the public had to be diverted from its distrust of big business. In order to help with their image, AT&T hired the services of the recently founded Publicity Bureau, which was located in Boston. The Publicity Bureau was a partnership of a former newspaper men, who prepackaged news to help the reputations of their clients. James T. Ellsworth, took the job of steering the AT&T account.

Ellsworth developed a strategy of using advertising revenue that the newspapers received, to steer the newspapers to writing favorably towards AT&T. Newspapers at this time already relied on advertising revenue as their main source of income. If AT&T became the newspaper best clients in terms of advertising revenue, the newspapers would not want to do anything to lose their best clients. Walter S. Allen, AT&T’s corporate liaison with the Publicity Bureau, saw this plan working and said it should be increasingly easy to get newspapers to write pro-AT&T articles. Allen also said that although articles may be promotions for AT&T, they must not appear to be so.

The system almost worked but fell through. After that AT&T moved away from the Publicity Bureau and hired Theodore Newton Vail to be their new executive chief. Vail believed that businesses must educate the public to an alternative truth. At times there were government officials who called for the government to end monopolies like AT&T. To combat this, Vail had pro-AT&T speakers drawn from the community prepared to speak at debates and had them extensively informed before the debates.

1.) Men like Rockefeller dealt in a business where they were shielded from the middle-class public and therefore did not need to deal extensively in public relations

2.) Vail, knowing that AT&T dealt directly with the middle-class public by providing them with phone service, knew that public relations and maintaining a good image in the public eye was essential to the survival of the company

3.) Vail’s insight into the modern public paved the way for the creation of modern public relations


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