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ing of the sentiment of the masses. A chain is no stronger than its weakest lirik, and in forging together your forces, see to it that honor, integrity and the fair square deal is melted into one homeogenious mass and molded into human links in your own chain. No company can thoroughly project the good feeling toward its public, if there are groanings, writhings and jealousies within itself. It is like a house divided against itself which can not stand, and it behooves us to renovate and sweep our own doorsteps of all internal contention.
OBLIGATIONS AND BUSINESS METHODS.
As said before, a company operates by virtue of an ordinance or franchise, granted by those who pay the tribute which keeps the coinpany in existence.
The public needs and wants us. Each is as necessary for one as the other and it is ours to live up to the letter of the franchise; making or sending out the best product at lowest profitable price, doing good work in or on the streets, impeding traffic as little as possible; protecting lawns from trench work by means of canvas; refilling trenches promptly and thoroughly and protecting shade trees in practical ways. Wear a seraphic smile when you pay your taxes and if your assessment should be too high, make your objection, but not too strenuously. “Honest worth for honest money," should be a motto with utilities as well as in any other business. It is the practice nowadays with merchants to refund money if goods are not satisfactory and it is ours to furnish the best commodity possible, for our goods are not returnable.
Show patrons the very best and most economical ways of using gas, and how to get the best results with the minimum amount of time, labor and fuel. Demonstrations are often eyeopeners to people who have been determined to go along in the same old way. Use a policy of generosity, of full measure, pressed down and running over with courtesy. Have just and fair rules for the ailowance of discount for prompt payment of bills, and do not depart from them under any circumstances. Do not make fish of some and flesh of others. Conduct your business in a pleasant, thorough, natural, painstaking and proper way, and good feeling will take care of itself.
HONEST PUBLICITY. In the days of Commodore Vanderbilt the famous expression credited to this worthy gentleman, i. e. “The public be damned” might stand, but to-day our faces are turned toward the rising sun of equity, equality and co-operation. The public is no longer to be damned and woe to those who insist on this strenuous policy. The masses are thinking and it is not possible to befog the public mind with half truth, with evasions, with misrepresentations, meagre assertions and bluff. Do not put off too long the taking of the Public into your confidence; for plain statements of facts and a systematic campaign of straight forward enlightenment is a stride toward the insurance of Public Good Will.
There is no need for actual cowardice on the part of the operators or its managers, or to allow the public to dominate its polices to such an extent as to retard its successful operation from a financial standpoint. Lines and principles should be carefully laid and established with regard to fairness and equity to both consumer and corporation and deviations from such principles should not be hastily made to satisfy the whim of some individual whom it is impossible to please and who may be unduly disgruntled. If a company is really doing all it can in furnishing good supplies at moderate rates, it can hold up its head before any of the “powers that be.” Dignity, honesty, courtesy and complete understanding and a large stock of good will is a great protection against council-maniac invasion.
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NEWSPAPERS. As has been said millions of times, so powerful is the influence of the press that some tactful representative of a company should be alert to prevent any misrepresentation before the public; to meet and break the force of any attacks made and to enlist as far as honesty will admit the favor of the community. Advertise as much as a direct commercial benefit would justify.
Last, but not least, is the need for higher ideals in all enterprises, no matter what they may be ; the desire to give value received and to do that which we would have done unto us; to be fair and just because it is right in itself, eliminating mercenary problems entirely. Too little of this spirit has prevailed in the past, and in disregarding one of the fundamental laws of control, corporations have in the past built up for themselves a wall of distrust. Right will prevail in the lives of corporations, as well as in the lives of individuals.
Order and cleanliness in and around the various plants and neatness in the general appearance of employees sets a standard of advancement and is conducive to favorable public attention and general good will, and the people served by such a company will point with pride and call attention to the improvement and believe in you and your work.
Flowers and Shrubbery arranged about your building is a larger step in the right direction than is generally accredited to these innocent manifestations of life. These are, many times, an inspiration in the life of a workman to live up to higher ideals and to keep up with an ethical procession that is good for him. Courtesy and gentlemanly conduct and attention to all, child or adult, rich or poor, with equal bearing in dealing with the lowly or the great, is bound to command attention and will do much to win the devotion of wives, widows and daughters, and that in itself is the most important item; for in many cases they are the personages through whom general good will is gained or lost.
Not being Shakespeare, we repeat, and say again that Public Good Will is an important asset. Cultivate it, cherish it and take it into your hearts. You can make pure gas, produce brilliant electricity and supply wholesome and unturbid water, but if the public is not on your side, your sojourn in a community will be neither profitable nor pleasant.
DISCUSSION. Richard Schaddelee :
I have read Mr. Old's paper on “Public Relations. How Best to Create and Maintain Public Good-will,” very carefully, and he has covered the subject in a way that is entirely in line with my ideas, so that there is little to be discussed on my part.
As Mr. Olds said, “It is more difficult to hold than to win the good-will of the public.” Oftentimes public service corporations, in trying to please everybody, will finally please nobody.
In the case of the Consolidated Gas Company, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that the Gas Company being a monopoly can not have good-will. I entirely disagree with the august court, as I am satisfied—first—that a Gas Company has no inonopoly, and-second—that the good-will of a Gas Company is just as valuable to it as the god-will is to any mercantile establishment.
I take it that the public has a right to demand, and a Gas Company is in duty bound to furnish a good quality of gas, good service, a fair price, and prompt, careful and courteous attention to all the needs of its customers. A gas company should boost for the city it operates in, and should in proportion to its ability, assist morally and financially all movements for the benefit of the city at large. It should be careful to safeguard the rights and interests of the city and the public in the laying of its mains and services, and in the operation of its entire plant, and if it does all these things, it has taken a long step towards creating a feeling of good-will on the part of the public. Still, however, there will always be kickers and people with personal grievances, and one or a few of these may, by the circulation of false statements, at least temporarily, impair the good-will of any company.
I am of the opinion that very little can be accomplished in the direction of obtaining the good-will of the public by advertising our ideas unless the advertising is backed up by facts. If a company is giving good service and careful and courteous attention to the needs of its customers and the public, the people will know it, and it will not be necessary to advertise every day at great expense to tell the people that you are doing what you ought to do. If, on the other hand, the company is not giving good service, and not giving prompt and careful attention to the needs of its customers and the public, no amount of advertising or statements in the paper will offset these facts in the mind of the public.
In the words of Carlyle, “What a man does talks so loud that we can not hear what he says."
Ill feeling existing on the part of the public towards a public service corporation can, in most every case, be traced to either of two causes. The first cause is, poor service and discourteous treatment of the public on the part of the employees of the corporation, and the second is—unscrupulous politicians who always desire, and often succeed, in making an attack on a public service corporation a stepping stone to political advancement.
The American people, as a whole, desire to see fair play, and if left alone they will always be disposed to treat a public corporation not only fairly but often liberally. What is usually called "public opinion” is in most cases simply a reflection of selfseeking politicians.
The man who reads the meter, the man who collects the bills and the man who connects the gas range is just as vital a factor in the creating and maintenance of a good feeling on the part of the public as the manager is himself, and with large companies this class of employees is really a more important factor than the manager. It behooves the manager and heads of departments to know the calibre and the character of the employees that come in contact with the public, and to know how they treat their customers, on which the very existence of their company depends. A corporation has no other soul and no other personality than that of its manager and employees, and therefore a corporation has a soul just to the extent that its manager and his employees have souls.
Regarding the matter of the franchise, or ordinance mentioned by Mr. Olds, I have never considered a franchise in itself of any value. An exclusive franchise would be of great value in a good city, naturally, but a franchise that is not exclusive, is of value simply because the law requires the company to have it in order to do business. If any other mercantile establishment would by law be required to have a franchise, or ordinance, in order to do business, then these franchises would be of just as much,