The Canadian Manifesto: How the American Neoconservatives Stole My Country
On April 3, 1939, Lewis H. Brown, President of Johns-Manville Corp., made the cover of Time magazine, as the "outstanding public relations success of 1938".
When Brown had taken his job in 1927, things were much simpler for industry. Business executives were only accountable to their stockholders, and so long as they could make a profit, they were pretty much left alone.
But with the Depression, when government realized that they would have to intervene in the nation's economy, all that changed. Not only would business have to answer to government, but also now to labour and the public.
And they were getting a bad rap.
So they began to hire "consulting" firms to handle PR. If Ivy Lee, the man known as the "founder of public relations", could turn the most hated man in America, John D. Rockefeller, into the "great benefactor", anything was possible.
Brown stood out as a leader of corporate PR, not as an adman, but as a corporate executive with a soul, and maybe even a heart. He promoted the idea of a business selling itself to the public, by developing leaders whose comprehension of public relations was "as mature as their knowledge of their particular trades." (1)
To do this many added public relations experts to their staff, but Lewis Brown handled the task himself.
When he first landed the job as president, he discovered that the company, which produced asbestos insulation, was very unpopular in most of the 17 towns where it had factories and mines. So he started a pictorial news sheet for employees, issued a series of booklets such as "This is our policy on the closed shop," and hired Cartoonist Don Herold to do a set of down-to-earth advertisements for local newspapers. Under his direction, J-M plants, were getting known as "good neighbors".
Since much of the insulation went into homes, in 1934 Lewis Brown started the National Housing Guild, to educate local lumber dealers in all the phases of house-building (including insulation) so that a prospective builder could get all his information and all his work at one spot.
1. PUBLIC RELATIONS: Corporate Soul, Time Magazine, April 03, 1939
2. Testimony of Charles H. Roemer, Deposition taken April 25, 1984, Johns-Manville Corp., et al. v. the United States of America, U.S. Claims Court Civ. No. 465-83C, cited in Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.581
3. Privatizing a Province: The New Right in Saskatchewan, By: James M. Pitsula and Ken Rasmussen, New Star Books, 1990, ISBN: 0-921586-10-8, p. 7
4. The Pilgramage of Stephen Harper, By: Lloyd Mackey, ECW Press, 2005, ISBN: 10-1-55022-713-0 , p. 94 & 209