A profile of labor unions' use of public relations today
Lento, Marilyn Carol
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This study was designed to determine how much of union relations and communications can be identified as public relations. The research was performed via personal and telephone interviews with union officials and representatives to question: (a) the existence of public relations formally or informally within union management levels; (b) the differences in union terminology and corporate public relations functions; and (c) the differences among the union personnel who practice these functions. The study also attempted to identify the (a) differences between the union's external and internal public relations efforts; (b) problems encountered by union public relations practitioners; and (c) examples from case studies. One hundred union local and national offices were systematically selected in the Chicago area. They were contacted for the names of union representative sources on the management levels. Fifty-one of the unions supplied lists. From these lists, ten union officials and five alternates were randomly selected to participate in the interviews. These individuals were contacted by telephone regarding their participation. Each was mailed an outline questionnaire prior to the personal interview. The findings of the study appear to support unions' use of public relations. Unions appear to use both informal and formal public relations efforts. Some union managements have either an informal or-formal public relations department. However, each department uses many different terms to identify specific public relations functions, communications activities and titles of the public relations practitioners. The findings also appear to support differences between internal and external public relations efforts. With union officials emphasizing and dictating where the public relations efforts should go, the public relations practitioner is faced with many problems including changing strategy midway through a public relations program. Union officials also hesitate to publish case studies and often do not approve of exchanging such information with other unions. There appears to be a growing trend by some unions to seek additional public relations counsel. In several instances, it appears that this trend could be attributed to younger, better educated, and more liberal union leaders. Unions' use of public relations could be studied for further support of the assumptions. These same participants could be retested within five years to determine what public relations functions and programs had developed to solve more complicated union programs.