Ivy Lee is the father of modern public relations (a.k.a. PR). He was a buisness reporter for New York World, Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper. He quit his reporting job to run election campaigns. After that, he opened a public relations firm.
The biggest welcoming into PR in Lee's career was in 1906. Coal mine owners wanted to be publicized so they basically hired Lee to advise them, after Lee had suggested that they talk to the press about getting publicity. They wanted to be publicized because their workers were on strike, and the workers had already started talking to reporters about the reasons they were on strike. The mine owners didn't even want to talk to the president at the time, Theodore Roosevelt, who wanted to help solve the issue.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. was one of these stubborn coal mine owners who refused to speak with the president. He is also the son of the man who founded the Standard Oil company. Lee officially worked for him in 1914 when he needed it most because the Rockefeller family became incredibly hated. They were kind in donating to orphanages and churches, but were cruel to their coal miners.
The Colorado miners had to work in dangerous conditions with minimal pay, which could barely support their families. These miners became angry in 1913 and went on strike, demanding more money and safer working conditions. They were kicked out of their company-owned houses after being on strike for several months. So the miners decided to live in tents, which the company's guards shot down and lit on fire. Forty people were killed and 100 were wounded. This was known as the Ludlow Massacre.
Even though Rockefeller knew what was going on, he denied having anything to do with the massacre. He also refused to meet the miners' demands. Lee talked him into getting to understand the miners better by having dinner with them and dancing with their wives. Lee took pictures of this and spread positive stories in articles to build Rockefeller's reputation up again with the public and with the miners. This actually helped Rockefeller realize that the miners were right in demanding a raise and better working conditions.
From this, Lee learned a few important lessons in PR:
- He was against corporate secrecy
- He believed in being open with reporters
- He did not want to supress news
- He found that the goal of PR is no longer to fool the public
- The corporations' performance should live up to the standards that the PR set for the corporation.
This matters because it changed the way public relations effected companies in the media.
Mass Media in a Changing World by George Rodman