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Before introducing Professor Park there is one point of view about publicity and social work that I would like to present. We who are connected with various societies, and especially those of us upon whom falls the burden of raising funds, have been accustomed to think of publicity as a means to an end. Too often our educational work has waited until the pressure for money became acute, and our publicity has then taken all its color from the need for contributions.
I wish to suggest that publicity and educational work are an important end in themselves. The charity organization society, for example, has not only the obligation of caring for families in distress and organizing sympathy and effective help for them, but it has also the duty of arousing the general public to a consciousness of the existence of large numbers of such families in their midst and of the further fact that such families owe their difficulties very largely to society's failure to realize the problems involved and to take steps to prevent the conditions that lead to poverty, disease, crime, and all other forms of distress.
The sooner we realize that educational work is an end in itself, and that all our organizations should consider publicity as a primary duty, the sooner and more surely will we bring about a state of society in which such efforts as ours will no longer be necessary.
In Baltimore our Alliance of Charitable and Social Agencies has set aside not less than $8,000 or $10,000 for educational and publicity work. We regard this as just as distinct a contribution to social work in a community as any other phase of our activities. This is the theory upon which we expect to develop our educational work in the future, not simply as a means of financing our other activities, but as one of the functions for whose discharge we exist.
Continuous publicity is a means of democratizing social work and socializing democracy.
Without further preliminary I wish to present to you the speaker of the morning, a man who has had many years of newspaper experience, followed by study and observation in many different countries, and by a thoroughgoing study of underlying principles of philosophy and pedagogy, a writer of practical articles and books on publicity work that are known to many of you, a teacher in the University of Chicago, who will lead us in an informal discussion this morning of Methods of Forming Public Opinion Applicable to Social Welfare Publicity.
METHODS OF FORMING PUBLIC OPINION APPLICABLE TO SOCIAL WELFARE PUBLICITY
Robert E. Park, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago
We have learned, during the present world war, a great deal about a great many things, and among others, that it pays to advertise. Advertising has made it possible to sell government bonds to the people direct, instead of through the banks as middlemen. But in selling bonds to the people we have, at the same time, to speak in the technical language of the advertising man, "sold" the United States. In advertising the Liberty Loan the government has advertised its purposes in this war. People who subscribe to the United States war bonds subscribe at the same time to the aims of the United States, to the principles upon which these aims are founded, and to the methods of the government in carrying them into effect. In order to sell Liberty bonds to 17,000,000 individuals in the United States it has been necessary to convince the great mass of the people that this is a just war, and to invite their co-operation in carrying it on. The advertising campaign which marketed the Liberty Loan has done as much as any other one thing, perhaps, to make the cause of the United States and its Allies the cause of the American people. It has paid the United States to advertise.
It is a good thing that public institutions have to go directly to the public, now and then, for funds. It is now pretty generally recognized that one of the most effective ways of keeping a public institution alive and vigorous is the need of getting and keeping the interest and the co-operation of the people who support it. To do this it must advertise. To use again the language of the advertising man it must sell its services to the public. A campaign for funds in this way becomes not merely a method of raising money, but a means of public education. At its best, advertising is always a form of pedagogy, and the social agency's most effective appeal, as William H. Allen has pointed out, is one that is conceived and carried out as a more or less disinterested form of public education.
There is another consideration. A government or an institution that advertises, and advertises effectively, is likely to be a democratic institution, and a democratic government. Under the new democracy, which is just now emerging from the wreck of our existing party and parliamentary government, a public institution, which is any institution supported by the public, will no longer expect to take money from the community, either in the form of gifts or taxes except upon condition that it can make the people of the community intelligent and responsible participators in its enterprises and its tasks. Under the City Manager plan of municipal government, where each department is expected to justify itself directly to the people, it has seemed to me that success was likely to depend finally upon the use which the government was able to make of the stereopticon and the moving picture.
A few years ago a friend of mine, who himself writes advertising, related an anecdote which has lingered in my memory. It was at the time when the manufacturers of breakfast foods and the southern and western fruit growers were teaching the American people to make their breakfasts of fruits and cereals (a ration appropriate to urban and sedentary people) rather than the traditional ham and eggs of our rural ancestors. A couple of advertising men were working together upon an advertisement of a breakfast cereal. "I wonder," said one of these men to the other, "I wonder if people eat this stuff because they like it, or simply because we make 'em do it.,,
The inference seems to be that we, who in our daily lives are so constantly exposed to the hypnotic influences of the advertising man, are no longer free agents. My own impression is, however, that just at present we are liable to overestimate the influence of publicity. Writers on the psychology of advertising, social workers and idealists, exaggerate, it seems to me, the extent to which the public has been and can be manipulated by the press, agitation, and other forms of advertising. Practical advertising men do not have quite so romantic a conception of their profession. They do not conceive of the advertising writer either as a sophist or a wizard. They would, perhaps, admit that clearness of statement, with sufficient emphasis and sufficient repetition, might sell anything once. On the other hand there is a maxim which is older than any special psychology on the subject, to the effect that it does not pay to advertise something that the public does not want.
The Magnetic Attitude
It sometimes seems to me that the social agencies have formulated their publicity policies under the impression that they are trying to sell the public something that the public does not want. In spite of this we speak hopefully of social advertising, on the general principle, perhaps, that advertising can somehow do the impossible. Let me illustrate by a quotation from a recent pamphlet on Publicity and the Financing of Social Agencies:
We are called at this time, while war is raging and ravishing, to keep alive and active the finer feelings and vital concern of every man and woman of intelligence and means in our midst toward their lowlier neighbors, who toil sore and yet cannot buy; toward the babes who languish because they need but cannot get doctors, nurses and life-giving sustenance; toward the sick who suffer on beds of pain in our hospitals and sanitaria; toward the friendless girl who is tripping along lightly toward destruction; toward the fatherless and the widows who know not where to lay their heads.
This is not what an advertising man would call a good "selling talk." It is not expansive and cheering. It suggests that the social agencies are on the defensive. It puts too much emphasis on the distressing situation, and not enough upon a program of action. Let me add, by way of parenthesis, that "selling," as the advertising man uses the word, is not necessarily a commercial term. I sell you when I have convinced you, not intellectually and tentatively, but permanently and,* so to speak, habitudinally. What the advertising man seeks to establish in the man he sells is not an opinion, nor an idea, but a habit. The appeal which touches the receptive heart but does not lure the active and constructive mind does not "sell" anything; it establishes no habits. In the end we learn to resign ourselves to pain and distress, particularly if the pain is not in us but in our neighbor. This is but an application to advertising of the school teacher's maxim that we learn by doing.
I do not wish to seem too subtle in my criticisms of social advertising, but it seems to me I notice a disposition among the social agencies to regard the war as an inconvenience rather than an opportunity. It is no doubt a hardship to be compelled to complete for funds with all the suddenly inprovised organizations which are attempting to do war work. It it not good advertising policy, however, to advertise that fact. It stirs subtle, silent conflicts in the public mind and this inhibits the full, free flow of the tide of public sentiment upon which all advertising projects must eventually float, if they succeed. In the last analysis, all our advertising is a matter not, as our psychologists of advertising seem to believe—a matter of the individual, but the public mind.
Besides, war work is everthing that contributes to national efficiency and the measure of social efficiency is the extent to which rational methods have been applied to the problems of poverty, crime and disease. At a time when the whole nation is aroused, as it has never been before, to the necessity for wider and wiser control of the common interests of the community; when the whole world has been stirred to a sort of passion for international right and social justice it should be less difficult rather than more to gain recognition and support for the work of the social agencies.
It seems to me social agencies are disposed to direct their appeals too exclusively to the so-called finer and hence feebler instincts. But these finer sentiments are too exclusively the luxury of a leisure class. A wisely directed publicity campaign should seek to take social service more completely out of the ideal and show its intimate connection with the plain, practical interests of our daily life. Social workers understand better than most people how intimately crime, poverty and disease are connected with so practical a thing as unemployment. We are all beginning to understand how easily every other value represented by civilization is destroyed when people lose, as they can most easily do, the slowly acquired habits of persistent labor. One way to interest the public in the work of the social agencies is to state social problems in definite terms of profit and loss to the community.
Financial Support Versus Co-Operation as Basis of Appeal
The criticisms upon social advertising which are here suggested amount, in general, to this: For purposes of successful publicity, social agencies are still too much inclined to hold to the earlier, individualistic, other worldly, and, if I may use the word in this connection, evangelical tradition. There is too much emphasis upon individual need and not enough on social utility; too much stress is put upon sentiment and not enough on action. Appeals are directed too exclusively to getting financial contribution, rather than intelligent co-operation.
In fact, it seems to me that social science and social practice generally, in spite of the progress of recent years, is too exclusively concerned with effects rather than causes. It is still too concerned in its task to be relief, rather than prevention and cure.
If the social agencies have not always conceived their problems in a way to gain the full co-operation of the community; neither have they stated their case so as to most effectively capture and hold the interest of the public. This is due in part to historical causes. The social agencies came into existence in order to direct and control, under the complex and artificial conditions of urban life, the natural impulses of neighborly and community co-operation; impulses, which, in smaller and more primitive communities, functioned automatically. In doing this, however, they have, as in the case of the organized charities, come between the giver and the need, the individual and his problem.
The social agencies are not alone in this respect. In politics, religion, art and sport, we are represented now by proxies where formerly we participated in person. All the forms of communal and cultural activity in which we all formerly shared have been taken over by professionals and the great mass of men are no longer actors, but spectators. Just as the average man, under the influence of professional politicians, has been relegated to the role of a mere taxpayer, so he has been reduced by the social agencies to the position of a mere contributor.
It is pretty generally accepted that a large part of the restlessness, the thirst for novelty and excitement, so characteristic of modern life, is due in part to the fact that we have been deprived, under the artificial conditions of city life, of most of the natural outlets for the expression of our interests and our energies. So far as this is true the solution of the problems, not merely of the social agencies, but of the church, the theatre, politics and the saloon—all the agencies that are now competing for our spare time—is some method by which the individual can regain a sense of personal participation in the institutional life about him. To achieve this is to achieve democracy. For in the last analysis we mean by democracy participation, practically and imaginatively, in the common life of the community.
A Press Bureau for Social Agencies
We have learned something during the present war about social advertising. We have also learned something about press bureaus. It is an interesting fact that England started the war with a censorship—a censorship so severe that, for a time, it seemed to Englishmen as if almost any one knew more about the movements of the English army than the English people. America, on the other hand, declared war and established forthwith, not a censorship, but a press bureau. The American press bureau is called at present, The Committee on Public Information. The Committee on Public Information is, however, performing the