Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Standard Oil vs. Public Opinion

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Standard Oil vs. Public Opinion

In chapter fifteen of PR "Public Ultimatum", author Stuart Ewen begins to describe Standard oil's reputation in the eyes of the public and its discontent towards the company. Standard Oil at the turn of the century was already a company with a tarnished reputation seeking to rebuild their image. By WWII, Standard Oil began a campaign to do just that, rebuild an already tainted image and disassociate themselves from the symbols used to define them, a "reckless and socially irresponsible", greedy corporation. Ewen points out that the company began a Public Relations Committee in order to address these issues and move the company forward. The problem that stood ahead for Standard Oil was that they did little up to that point to change their already tainted image.

"The history of Standard Oil in its relations with the public has not been too fortunate....Back in the days..Standard Oil was regarded as a prime example of a powerful, grasping, iniquitous business organization....In thirty years are more that followed..very little was done to offset this idea of the company"

I feel Standard Oil shot themselves in the foot by not addressing these issues when Ida Tarbell threw them under the bus in her investigative report of the company. But establishing the Conference would be a step in the right direction. The only thing that they were not sure of was if it was too little too late. Ewen continues by pointing out that The Senate committee ran by Harry Truman, began an investigation regarding information obtained of Standard Oil participating in "back door" dealings with a German Chemical Cartel-I.G. Farben in 1942. This would be a significant investigation especially for the simple fact that these deals were said to have happened while the country entered war in Europe. This would not help the company in its already initiated efforts to change their reputation in the eyes of the public as well as the media. Ewen goes on further to state that the company had to now begin another campaign to address these new allegations of associating themselves with the "enemy".

"By the middle of 1943, a new public relations department had been created...devoting its energies to defending the company against charges of collusion with Germans"

I'm shocked that at a time when the country was apprehensive of fascist and socialist sympathizers, that Standard Oil would be "allegedly" associated with the enemy in trading information.



Blogger A. Mattson said...

A very good post.

Germany was a trading partner and during the Great Depression American corporations were looking for business in Nazi Germany or anywhere else that was open for business. This was a matter of economic survival. Some corporations were sympathetic to the Nazi regime because they created an orderly Germany that was open for business and no longer plagued by labor and political unrest. American business looks for stablity and order first when it looking for a business relationship.

Standard Oil did have pr problem because of its dealings with the Nazi regime. This is a good example of the kind of corporate PR issue that still plagues transnational corporations doing business in countries with repressive governments and human rights abuses.

3/18/2009 1:09 PM  

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