GM embraced public relations, so did the rest of the country
MOTORS: Value and Sales Appeal
cars during the depression was a real challenge. GM's net sales
dropped 46.6% in 1932, and they were looking to improve the numbers.
GM hired Bernays to promote their cars at the annual automobile
show in New York one month later.
quickly defined his tactics and objectives: "use the show to
attract liberal spenders to promote the new line of cars, placing
40%...emphasis on the sales appeal of a window innovation preventing
drafts and 35% on more value for less money."
organized the "Metropolitan Committee on Better Transportation"
that issued a report advocating improved transportation ventilation.
After Bernays ensured that the report received publicity, GM announced
that its 1933 cars assured the ventilation that the committee had
emphasize value, he recruited endorsements from engineers for GM's
innovative composite steel and wood bodies, and the National Retail
Dry Goods Association endorsements on quality maintenance. By pledging
a commitment to research and development, Bernays was able to achieve
over 150 endorsements for GM from some of America's most famous
business leaders -- the presidents of B&O, Standard Oil of N.Y.,
and Yale University. The overall message: high quality is a better
investment than cheap cars.
Bernays's suggestion, GM president and CEO Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.,
hosted three luncheons during the auto show. The first emphasized
new GM technology and commitment to further innovation. At the second
luncheon, diplomatic consuls from more than 40 countries around
the world heard GM's perspectives on motoring as a major force in
international understanding. The third luncheon, attended by distinguished
economists boosted consumer confidence when a Bernays survey revealed
a public optimism in business and the stock market. Innovation and
GM were now associated in the public eye.
P. Sloan, satisfied that the luncheons furthered company goals,
hired Bernays as GM counsel and endorsed public relations as more
effective and cheaper than advertising. He asked Bernays to educate
executives of 51 GM subsidiaries and Bernays responded with a package
of quotes, "desk presentations," and mimeographed newsletters.
conversion to public relations was conveyed in his message in the
annual report. He said, "the corporation's most vital relationship
is with the public. Its success depends on a current interpretation
of the public's needs and viewpoints, as well as on the public's
understanding of the corporation's motives in everything it does."
relationship with GM continued until he grew the function outside
of an external counselor's role. As General Motors embraced public
relations, so did the rest of the country. Clearly, the corporate
perception of public relations was advanced through Bernays's work.