The Page Center will award grants to support scholars and professionals making important contributions to knowledge, practice or public understanding of ethics and resposibility in public communication or other principles of Arthur W. Page.
Interviewer: We are sitting in John Reed’s office, an international office full of memories from around the world. It’s August 30, 2007. Welcome! Thank you for spending some time with us.
Reed: Welcome to you.
1. Interviewer: What I hope to accomplish this afternoon is to give you the opportunity to share how and where you lived your life and who and what influenced you. How you see the current state and the future of international public relations. So let’s go back to your military career. After you completed your work in Korea and Japan you continued to work in the international realm. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Reed: My goodness. Well, I because of my age I turned 18 in 1945, and I went a little in the Army a little ahead of that and so because Harry Truman dropped the atom bomb, I was spared the labor of landing in Japan to invade a Japanese resigned as it were and I was sent instead of Korea which at that time was called Chosun to help take the surrender of Japanese, send them home, and bring the Koreans back to Korea. My job as it turned out was to be a sort of PR man for the ruling general in Pusan. And he gave me a lot of leeway. I was 18. And he said “Well go do that, and then go do this.” And he his encouragement really got me sort of started in the notion and on the road to how do you persuade people to do something. The first task was to persuade sailors, civilian sailors on shipping on ships calling it Pusan Harbor not to patronize bad bars. Not to go and drink local bad whisky. And so I had tried to devise ways of persuading these active young men to stay away from bad bars… and bar girls. And it was a wonderful exercise in trying to solve a PR problem. I used to go out to ships when they pulled into the harbor and go out on the lighter and make a little speech about now don’t go here and don’t go there. Didn’t work. So I brought a bottle of local whisky out with me and said here I’ll save you a lot of trouble. Have a drink. this is what they serve in the local bar. So I said to the colonel, “We’ve got to find another place for these fellows to go where they won’t get sick.” Good idea says he. “Go do it.” Biggest free space at the time was the ground floor of the railway station hotel. And I said, “Can we take this and we’ll make it into a dance hall?” And he said “good idea.” “Go ahead and do it.” And so we discovered that there was a Korean orchestra, dance orchestra, stuck in China. The Japanese had brought the orchestra down to play for the Japanese troops who were occupying the coast of China. This gets to be very international. And so I was sent down to bring them home to Pusan. Put them to work in the lobby dance hall of the station Railroad Station Hotel. And the colonel arranged for an ample supply of low alcohol by volume beer to be available. And we found willing partners amongst the wives and children of the orchestra players and their friends and their friends friends so we had a swell dance hall that was safe. The lesson that taught me was it wasn’t the press release that did the trick as very often in the world of PR, but some action, some creative way of solving a problem. So I didn’t start out with the notion of press releases and interviews, but rather with some sort of action. Subsequent to the action, of course, we did a lot of publicity about the club, so that American boys living in this remote part of Korea in the southern coast would use the facility. Hence, stay out of trouble. I don’t know if that answers anything or?
Interviewer: Well it definitely does.
Reed: It’s what happened.
Interviewer: Right, I’ve heard this before with the military experience.
Reed: It solved the problem. By having the dance hall, we also had an alternative for the boys not going to the local bars so that when I went out to visit the ships that sailed into port, I could say here’s the address where you can go and have a safe drink and meet girls.
Interviewer: Now this was about…
Reed: 1945, 1945-46.
2. Interviewer: Okay, I know that in, I think in 1960, you ended up back in the States at Olin Mathieson. What happened between that and 1960?
Reed: Well I came back to, after being in Asia for a couple of years, I came back to the United States, looked around trying to find a job, trying to decide what I was going to do. I lived in New York and I lived in Washington. Returned to Washington which has always been my real home town. My brother never left. And I went to work on, I had worked as a copy boy on a newspaper. I looked around at what I could be doing and through a friend, I discovered that the newly formed United States Information Agency which was a successor of the war time office of what was it called. Stop. Yeah just a second. What the heck was it called? The not OSS.
Interviewer: Was it the USIA?
Reed: I’m sorry, I beg your pardon. Okay they were creating a successor to the office of war information from WWII and they called it USIS or USIA and they housed it in the State Department, like for some strange reason. And we were recruiting people to staff the overseas branches. At that time, nobody wanted to go. No Americans wanted to go to Korea. No Americans spoke Korean. The Koreans had been speaking Japanese for 50 years. Nobody had been to Korea. And I volunteered and I got a job. It was the lowest ranking job in the Embassy staff. It was a FS-13. I was so low I wasn’t entitled to a wife. But I surprised by bringing one with me. And I went back to Korea in 1949 as a lowly functionary clerk really of the US Information Agency branch in Seoul, Korea. In the meantime, Korea had been divided in half; the Communist taking over the North and an independent free government being set up in the South under Dr. Sigmund Rhee. The propaganda war on both sides had begun. The psychological warfare was in full bloom. And the only kind of people that US Information Agency could recruit at that time were academics who really wanted to go abroad to be able to complete their thesis. And I had a very good boss named Jim Stewart. He was a missionary brat born in Japan, raised in China, spoke the languages. And he gave me my head and when I thought of something to do, he’d say go do it. So that’s how I really got started, by practical work in Korea. It quickly became obvious to me that Koreans didn’t speak English or even Korean much at that time. They were reverting to Korean. And that fascinated me, the whole notion of cultures enclosed by a language fascinated me. And I realized, how gradually, how important it was to get inside the linguistic cocoon in order to be in a place where you could persuade people to do something or persuade them not to do something. Or persuade them to let you do something. And those really are the three things toward which PR is directed. What was the question?
3. Interviewer: Well we’re in the 50s now was there some time you spent in the Philippines?
Reed: Yes, well what happened was while living and working in Korea, a war began. The North invaded on June 25, 1950. I was living in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, which is only a few miles from the border where the tanks came over in the middle of the night and we were in deep doodoo. And so we had to flee. Cargo planes were flown in to Kimpo Air Field and we were rushed out to board those planes and fly to Japan to safety. Shortly after that, the Americans committed troops to the defense of South Korea. To me, one of the great proofs of the efficacy of public relations is that during the initial stages when the North Koreans occupied all of South Korea except for one beachhead around the city of Pusan, there were no defections, the South Koreans stayed loyal to the West, to America. Why do they do that? Well I think part of the reason is because we had a good information program. We had exposed America, the United States as a model to follow for the South Koreans. And they had had a free election. And we promoted the use of the Korean language. One of the most interesting things to me personally was I noticed that the American Embassy in 1949 early 50 had brought over some intelligent people, scholarly people, to write a newspaper and to produce a daily newspaper. And I noticed that after they produced the paper, and it was printed, piles of them were still stacked up around the Embassy. I don’t usually talk this much. Piles of these papers were stacked up and they weren’t being delivered. And there were various distribution systems to the Embassy, the Embassy tried to establish for the newspapers. And my boss, Jim Stewart said “John why don’t you figure out how to get these things out to the people who should read them?” So, I went out to the villages in Korea. And I discovered that every village had a senior man, sort of as the unofficial local mayor or [inaudible]. He was called the Yong Bon and he wore a funny hat. And he was distinguished and deferred to. And he was wise. And he had a name and he had an address and so I started collecting the names and addresses of the Yong Bons of the villages of Korea. And then put other people to work doing it. And back at the Embassy in Seoul, we started addressing the newspapers to the Yong Bon and mailing them to them. One thing the Japanese were very good at in the occupation of Korea was roads and telegraphs and mail service and schools. The mail worked fine. So we mailed them. The Koreans loved it. They got a piece of mail. So the Yong Bon would read the newspaper giving credence to the propaganda we were issuing. This had a powerful effect. The proof of it was when the North Koreans.
Reed: This simple device of sending the newspapers, which otherwise were useless, direct to the Yong Bons with their name and address gave dignity to the recipient. He would read the paper to the local people. The paper was in Korean not in Japanese or English. We built up an enormous amount of support and good will in South Korea by the simplest and most inexpensive of all possible projects. I liked that. I thought, hot dog! Now I’m learning something about public relations. Excuse me. It’s a true story. Well we got kicked out of Korea by the fate of the war going down to the Pusan beachhead, Pusan Perimeter, as it was called.
I was transferred from Tokoyo to Manila to help develop and build and operate a printing plant that would produce propaganda or PR materials for Southeast Asia for US Information Agency. The State Department did not like the notion of getting into practical business things. They liked diplomacy, flowery notes, cocktail sipping, la de dah. But a printing plant? Good God! Greasy messy! But that printing plant ran for 30 years after it was set up to produce PR materials from surrender leaflets to prayers in the initial stages in the war in Vietnam. And the production of that printing plant was also used in the Philippines and got people interested in and connected with learning local languages because they had to be printed in languages appropriate to the Philippines and to Indonesia and to Indochina and to Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, and that helped to develop American scholarly interest and broaden American interest in those languages and therefore those peoples. So I worked there for quite a while and traveled into other parts of Asia seeing what kind of printed materials would be useful in promoting democracy and fighting Communism. It was practical PR. I should have paid them for the job. It was so much fun and I learned so much.
4. Interviewer: And then you ended up back in the United States.
Reed: Right. What happened was I went back to the United States after my tour of duty was finished in the Philippines and I was signed up to go and I was taking home leave a couple of months here in Washington. And one day I was in the barbershop owned by a pal, my former roommate, Mike. He had converted from being a cook to being a barber. I think he was a better cook than barber. But anyway, Mike was cutting my hair and the phone rang and he said “John do you want to go on the phone by the State Department?” And I said “What is it?” And they said well we’ve had an inquiry and you need to call your former boss in Korea Jim Stewart because he wants to talk to you. So I called him from the barbershop and Mr. Stewart as I then called him said “John where are you going?” I said, “I don’t know. They are sending me to Hong Kong or somewhere.” And he said “Why don’t you come out to San Francisco and work for me?” I said “Can I work for you?” He said, “yeah.” I said, “Is it…” “You’ll like it,” he said. So I called the State Department and quit. Bought a car and drove across the country to San Francisco where I joined what was then called the Committee for Free Asia. It later became the Asia Foundation and still exists. But originally it was the Committee for Free Asia and I went back to work for my original boss Jim Stewart, who taught me so many things about people and about Asia and about languages. And I worked for him for ten years. And my job was to go out and run programs and projects to stop the spread of Communism in Asia and find things and ways of getting people to rally in support of democracy and free enterprise and motherhood and against sin. And it was wonderful. And they paid me to do it. And I learned stuff. And I traveled the great arc of Asia from Korea to Afghanistan. And back again from Afghanistan, to when it was then called West Pakistan to India to what was called East Pakistan and in the south to what was then called Ceylon. Now of course those are Bangladesh which is East Pakistan and Ceylon is now Sri Lanka and Burma is now, what is Burma now, whatever it is. Rangoon is became Yangon. And in every single case there were countries in trouble. China had fallen to the Communists, all of China. And it was a threat and the possibility that they would take over all of Asia, but they didn’t. So I worked for the Committee for Free Asia, Asia Foundation, for ten years. And I got a post-graduate degree in experience, country by country, and along the way picked up a few languages. It was practical training for the service of our country. I loved it.
Interviewer: You’ve had just outstanding experiences in your life.
Reed: Dumb Irish luck I think.
5. Interviewer: You’ve touched on this a little bit. Well actually quite well. You place a lot of importance on learning about the cultures that you are going to be working with.
Interviewer: Getting local help.
Interviewer: Publishing things producing things, presenting things in local context.
Interviewer: Okay, you’ve talked a little bit how important this has been. Can you talk a little bit about how you get things to resonant with your target audience and how you really first realized that the challenge of this cultural myopia, that you don’t just arrive in a country and do things the way you’ve always done them at home. Do you have anything else that you might want to add? How you bridge these problems in international PR? Do you think these are important to building trust and credibility?
Reed: Absolutely the task is to persuade people to do something. And the best way to persuade them is by understanding and making friends with, and using the channels that they find that they open naturally. In the case of Korea for example. When I first went to Korea, the Koreans had been speaking Japanese for 50 years with an occupation power. They were yearning to speak Korean. A lot of the people who came to work in embassies, American and others, or in international agencies, whether it’s Red Cross or whatever, spoke Japanese. Japanese was a popular language of study. Japanese was a dominant language of big country. And everybody knew the Koreans spoke Japanese. And so they came in, speaking Japanese. I found out the first day the Koreans didn’t want to speak Japanese. That was what the occupying power head kept them submerged under for 50 years. They wanted to speak Korean. But the people who went over there had no idea about Korean. A few missionaries, Christian missionaries, spoke Korean and had bothered to study the language and there were a few books as a consequence of that. And a few ex-patriot Koreans had tried to teach people in other countries to speak Korean, notably in Shanghai and in Hawaii, and even in Washington. It became quickly obvious to me that we didn’t want to be speaking Japanese to Koreans. We want to speak Korean to Koreans. And that, that newspaper sent out by mail did that, that was a profound lesson for me to learn. Really, really in the Philippines, the United States had been an occupying force from the, from the war, Spanish American War, 1898-1900. For a long time the United States had been. And under the Tidings-McDuffie Act, had agreed to liberate the Philippines and make them an independent country in 1946. That was interrupted by the war but the United States kept its pledge and the country became independent and nobody in America spoke [inaudible]. They insisted the Philippines speak English. Well the Spanish had insisted they speak Spanish. That didn’t take. We insisted they speak English. That took halfway. But any American who could speak local language [inaudible] and its relative languages [inaudible] and [inaudible], and so forth really had an edge. It became quickly evident to me that if I wanted an edge, I’d learn to speak [inaudible]. It couldn’t be that tough. I mean the Philippines were speaking it. But that was a profound lesson to learn and it helped me a lot everywhere I went. Or if you are going to speak English in the Philippines speak Philippine English. That requires certain word selection and a certain accent but it’s very effective.
6. Interviewer: Over your experience, over the years can you identify a time when you came upon unethical persuasion, and how did you handle that and how did you confront it and how did you resolve it?
Reed: Well the CPSUB, that is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Bolshevik, the original revolutionary group who, by the way, had an apologist by the name of John Reed who wrote Ten Days That Shook the World. I’ve been trying to live that down. He was from Oregon. it’s a boring book. Beatty was the fellow’s name. Beatty something William, Warren Beatty played him played John Reed in the movies. Terrible! The, the early pronouncements of the Communist Party which sought global domination and the conquest of all countries and sent it out that that was what they would do, had parties in every country and would take them over, were flawed right from the beginning, because they said things that weren’t true. I read the early manifestos, the Communist Manifesto and when What is to be Done? one of the great textbooks of communism and realized that they were bound to fail but were time because they weren’t telling the truth. And that impressed me very much and made me realize that I wasn’t just telling the truth because it was nice or the right thing to do, but because it was a winning, a winning ticket. It was the way to win the war, a way to win the world, a way to win men’s hearts. The truth shall make you free. And that, that experience in the Far East of seeing and reading and dealing with what the various Communist elements were using to persuade people in different countries to accept and to undertake the Communist regime taught me a lot about the truth. And that applies in commercial public relations as much as it does political public relations. When the, when the Communists were in the early days after WWII were really pushing and when Mao Tse Tung was consolidating his power, the Russians supplied textbooks to Japanese students in Japan at university level. Books about geography. Well the Committee for Free Asia guy and an academic pal discovered these geography books, which had the maps in the wrong place. That the lines were not drawn honestly. So they said I was on a visit and we had already done a project with collecting garden seeds for vegetables for the Philippines called Seeds for Democracy and we on the tabletop in a restaurant had sketched out books for Asian students project. We would get the geography classes of university students in the United States to donate their used textbooks and we’d take care of shipping them out and getting them into the hands of university students in Japan, knowing that if they were published in the United States that the lines would be correct for where the countries were and the descriptions of the countries would be accurate and truthful. And the Communists-supplied textbooks for geography be thrown out in the trash. And we did that. And it happened. This was profound. No one heard about it. No publicity was made about it. But tens of thousands of university students got the straight truth on where the Soviet Union ended and where whatever it was began, and American university students participated and supported that. I liked that.
Interviewer: So did Arthur Page. That was one of his principles. Tell the truth.
Reed: Absolutely. It works. I mean, never mind whether you think it’s moral or not. And I do think it’s moral. It works. That taught me, those kinds of things taught me a lot that is, was later applicable to working for commercial clients.
7. Interviewer: Let’s talk a little bit about, since we sort of touched on education, let’s talk a little bit about public relations education. When you found yourself as a teacher in the classroom - university level, you talked earlier when we were at lunch about how important that was, how important it is to you? Do you believe that recent graduates are prepared for the informed ethical decision making that they are going to face in today’s world?
Reed: I'm going to put my foot in it now. It depends on the attitude of the student and the attitude of the teacher. If the attitudes are and the thought process is that this is something mechanical like mathematics or brick laying, I fear for the future. If, if this is seen as something that has a life unto itself, that’s going to go wrong. What public relations is really about is supporting the best things, backing, pushing, helping the best that is in society. And making its practitioners feel great, as well as rich. But first great, and making the best causes survive and prosper. By causes I mean automobiles or donations to the Red Cross or whatever the product may be. I think a lot about this, because I’ve been in the classroom and the young people are like the population of the country. Some are this way. Some are that way. Some are tall. Some are short. I don’t find enough ‘spirit’ for want of a better word. This is not a very academic word perhaps, but spirit. I don’t find enough spirit there. And spirit is what’s needed as well as technology. I think that the history shows that the great PR people have been those with spirit who have dared to do something, who had taken on difficult problems and solved them. I think that anybody can make a work-a-day livelihood in the PR field by doing this, that or the other thing, being very good at audiovisuals or knowing how to write a press release; but those who will really enjoy life and have fun with it and contribute something positive and useful to society are those who will be fired up by the notion of persuading for good, persuading positively, persuading to make something good happen whether it’s to buy Hershey bars or not to eat too many chocolates. It’s a wonderful profession.
8. Interviewer: What was that spirit, the quality of having spirit? Are there any other qualities? What other qualities will make a good…
Reed: …Good PR person will be someone who is very curious about things. Who wants to learn? Why did she do that? Why did he do that? Why do people do that? And having learned why, then you don’t have to change their direction if it should be changed. Why do they do that? Then what makes so and so tick? What makes Chinese people open restaurants in the United States? Why are there so many Chinese restaurants and no Chinese farmers? Why? Why is why is this, why is that? That’s the thing that I think helps make great PR people. Why do they do that? Because if you understand why they do that then you know how to alter to change it. I think that PR is dealing with the real heart and soul of human beings. I don’t think there can be anything more exciting than that. And I think that, that those who see that and who sense that have a great pleasure in following the path of this career of PR.
9. Interviewer: You mentioned technology. Touched on it. The world now is able to hold virtual meetings. There are virtual teams working on projects together in various places in the world. We bring together these different cultures in these different geographic locations, and knowing that they have to communicate with each other, now what, how is this going to influence the public relations in the future and how do you work through this? Are there problems here? If there are how do you work through them in a virtual world?
Reed: I have a great respect for inventors and for high tech. Great respect. I have a low regard for my own ability to deal with those things. I’m pretty low tech kind of guy. I wish everybody well who’s in high tech. I want them to devote their high tech abilities to the low-tech requirements of our society. As for the international development of PR and persuasion and its relationship to high tech, I think that the world is growing bigger not smaller. Partly because of this high tech business, because you can form discreet smaller units in all phases whether it’s communications or technology or science or people. The United Nations when it was formed had, I don’t know, 50 countries, 70 whatever; it was it’s over 200 now. That means the world is getting bigger not smaller. There are more and more discrete nations or nation states or neighborhoods in the world. And people are pulling themselves into shells that follow that particular unifying force for the neighborhood. I don’t think that the India and the United States necessarily will remain as big as they are. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were an independent country called Hawaii someday. Why they are not connected to the United States? And the same thing is true in India. I think that that there are such great differences. The Pakistan was one country. East and West and now it’s two countries. Pakistan and Bangladesh. India, I think I’m pretty certain, that South India will pull apart from Northern India and Mountain India. China has got it’s greatest challenge, is not the military challenge any more; its greatest challenge is whether it can hold together the disparate unified states that make up China and who speak different languages and have a different history. And nobody most people outside of China looking let’s say from this room in China say “Oh they all look Chinese. They all have eyes like that and they all speak ching, ching, ching.” But they don’t. They don’t all have eyes like that. They have different histories. They speak different languages and they know the differences. The people from [inaudible] don’t speak the same Chinese as the people from Hunan. The people from Mongolia are totally different. The people from Sanghai, or Shanghi it’s called, speak totally different than people from Canton. And their food is different and their history is different. And they may look all the same to us sitting here in Pennsylvania Avenue but they are different to each other and I don’t think and certainly has been true throughout history, that a unified China can last very long. So if I were advising students, I’d tell them start learning to speak, take your pick of a Chinese language. And learn to write the ideograms. Ideograms remain the same. That’s the unifying force. But the spoken language is totally different. I think that the PR is going to have a lot to do with how these conglomerated countries stick together. Just as there has been a unifying force, that in the European economic union, it’s splitting apart right now as we speak into very separate and more countries now exist in Europe than has ever existed before. When you start counting the ones that have been liberated in the north like Estonia and Lithuania. I think Russia disillusioned which is the central government now of Russia itself, is trying to pull back together by military means is irrevocably split now so that you’ll have 20 countries vying on the international scale all of whom need PR people. All of whom need to learn PR. And so the, those former provinces of the Soviet Union or as they call it the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics USSR is splitting.
Interviewer: you’ve called the world a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Reed: Yeah it really is. And I love puzzles. It’s really, it’s really amazing to me how provincial people are place by place. It’s astonishing to me. I go to country after country or in this country state after state, and find there is a local innuism, a local characteristic that makes them people in that particular place different or want to be different. It’s okay with me. As a PR man, all I have to do is learn what makes them tick and persuade them.
10. Interviewer: Yes. Well let’s look at kind of winding this discussion up. But one thing
Reed: I think we’ve been speaking for about four or five days haven’t we? I don’t know if this has been of any use to you at all?
Interviewer: Oh absolutely. Let me ask you quickly if for what what accomplishments are you most proud of in your life? Can you put your finger on something and say oh I know what that is?
Interviewer: Say that again.
Interviewer: Will you talk a little bit about that?
Reed: I thought everybody knew about it, but goodness gracious. These are Bayanihan girls.
Reed: Here’s the problem. After WWII and after the independence granted to the Philippines by the Tidings-McDuffie Act took place in 1946. And after the Hukbalahaps to some extent were subdued in central Luzon, these were the revolutionaries, the left wing revolutionaries and the people the Muslims in the southern islands of the Philippines, notably Mindanao, were pacified and things were back to sort of normal by 1950. This is five years after the war ’55. Things were calm. The university students were radicalized as they had been in the United States if you remember the 50s and 60s in the United States. Well, copycat Philippines was like that. There were all these left wing beard-growing hippies of, Philippine type hippies, and so on and so forth. And they wanted to, they didn’t want to go and fight with the with the rebels as it were but they wanted to, there were strikes. There were parades. There were marches. There was all this agitation. And one of the big complaints among these young people who were to be the intellectuals and to be the teachers of the future for the country was that everything was Uncle Sam’s fault. The reason we don’t have it. The reason we aren’t. The reason we can’t. The reason… it was all Uncle Sam’s fault. And so the propaganda internally in the Philippines was against anything American. Uncle Money Bags. Well you have two ways to go at that sort of problem. You can say they can say you are the bad guy and you can say no I’m not. So you have the denial avenue. No I didn’t. No I can’t. No I won’t. Or you can use enfilade PR. I love the enfilade system. That’s where you shoot from the side. Instead of straight back or back and forth you shoot from the angle. Enfilade PR. Just as American culture was being decried by Philippine’s so called self-established or self-styled nationalists; a little group was forming called [inaudible]. [inaudible] it comes from the word byon meaning people and [inaudible] people working together. Great concept. And it was the name of a dance group. It was a group started at the Philippines Women’s University. You like the sound of this already don’t you? And they had gone out and done a lot of research through the PE department, physical education because dancing is healthy. But later through the whole university and they had learned that in all these islands, 7,100 islands of the Philippines, there were all different kinds of dances and songs and musical instruments. And you could say well there was no national Deutschland Uber Alles. No they had something stronger. They had this whole woven network [inaudible] working together. What a great thing to promote. To be in favor of Philippine culture. All they needed was recognition outside their own country. The way to get recognition - drill the company and take them on tour. Send back the newspaper clippings of how well they were received in Paris or in Washington and all of a, and that’s what happened. And all of a sudden in the Philippines there were a dozen more [inaudible] groups all over the country promoting their own culture saying we are proud of our culture. Nobody ever paid attention to our culture before. We have it now. And it’s wonderful and it’s beautiful. And all the critics of America are gone because there is something that is alive and wonderful. That’s great. Fiftieth anniversary is in October this year. I’ll be going out to Manila.
Reed: That’s a PR program in the way of no press releases but in the way of an action that has the result that’s positive and useful and at the same time without saying so crushes all these complaints. That’s PR in action, I think.
11. Interviewer: Is there anything else you want to share with the next generation of PR professionals?
Reed: Well get to see it and do it up close because the books are too tightly structured. And therefore boring, you know. And I don’t want to criticize people and so on and so forth but you know as revered as Cutlip and Center are and I know both of them. Scott Cutlip and Allen Center. It’s really dull and furthermore it doesn’t really reflect the excitement that goes on among the real practitioners. I would have paid for my jobs. I had so much fun. As it turns out I got more and more money. I really did. And, and I didn’t think about that particularly. My father died when I was very young as a boy. And I said to him shortly before he died. It was one of the few things I remember. Daddy what shall I be when I grow up? All boys ask their parents this. And girls too I’m sure. And he said I don’t care what you are. Be the best at what ever it is you do, be the best. I don’t care whether you are a street sweeper or president. Be the best. That’s one of the few things I remember about him. The other thing I remember about my father is he sent me a postcard. We’re in boarding school in Leonardtown, Maryland. He was an international union organizer for the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers). And he was picked by the first woman cabinet member Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor under Roosevelt to be a delegate to go to a World Congress of the International Labor Organization to be held in Lima, Peru. And one day I got a postcard at Leonard Hall in Leonardtown, Maryland from Lima, Peru. Well I couldn’t believe it. I mean it had a postage stamp on it. I had never seen a piece of mail from anywhere in the world. Had a postage stamp. Had a picture of the Andes Mountains. Holy cow, I rushed to the geography book and the dictionary to find out where is this place. Where is my father? He was in Lima, Peru. Of course I called it ‘lima’ as in lima beans. And so I started pestering my the brothers who were teachers where is this? Where is my father? It was signed Daddy. I was what ten something. Well I was set on fire that he would go to. I looked on the map. Outside the United States down in South America on the Pacific coast in this place called Peru. Holy cow. That set me, you know, that was a and then he said whatever it is you do, be the best and then you know it just sort of came. I wished I had my father for many, many more years but for the bit, the few years we did have him, I’m grateful. Because he said go do it. I think that public relations has a great capacity to do good. I think we can persuade people to donate to the Red Cross. If we can persuade people to cross at the corner not in the middle of the street. And we can persuade people to give up smoking cigarettes. Fat chance! And so on. But we have a responsibility as well as that right to do that. And our responsibility is to persuade people to do the right thing. To do it for the right reason and do it in the right way. And that gives a morality to public relations that, that people don’t think about very often. It’s a very moral kind of thing that we do. And I like that. You know you do well by doing good. And for me the the specialty that I was sort of pushed into was international - doing it some place else. Wonderful. I had a great time. I consider myself a very lucky guy. Really.
Interviewer: I feel pretty lucky just to have you share some of your experiences with us. This has been wonderful. This will become part of the permanent collection at the Page Center. Any other thoughts?
Reed: No, the only thing we really didn’t touch on I suppose are what we unfinistic refer to in textbooks as case studies. Everybody is interested in case studies.
Interviewer: They are rather large here.
Reed: Big thing is case studies. I think that’s a bit formal. I like to think of it as problem solved. What is it you needed to get done and how did you do it? And did it work? And I love to hear other PR people when I’m with them tell me about how they solved a particular problem. You know and how it worked or how they approached a particular problem. And when I think back in the long career in this field, I think always about those Bayanihans solutions to problems and how wonderful it can be. And although we’ve used and I have used press releases and all the paraphernalia of standard PR all over the place. It’s the creative things outside that, that have had the best influences. You know
Interviewer: The actions.
Reed: The actions and the ideas. That’s really exciting to me. You know you changed the color of this or the shape of that or whatever and it will have a profound influence. That’s, that’s terrific.
Interviewer: Well I want to thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us.