Since beginning my Master's earlier this Fall I have become somewhat obsessed with research in the field of communications. Recently I've been finding myself doing mini literature reviews purely out of interest. Last week I was all about lifestyle branding and consumer marketing.
I stumbled upon a gem in the Journal of Public Relations that left me feeling inspired. The researcher preformed in-depth interviews to construct a story of Charlotte Klein's career in PR. This method of research is called a narrative study. In case you haven’t heard of Klein until now, she can be described as the “Leading Lady of Public Relations” in a time when the industry was in its early stages and was dominated by men.
The purpose of the paper is as follows: to document and contribute to the knowledge of a rich but little documented era in public relations history and records successful strategies that remain relevant to practitioners today.
Klein gained a lot of recognition for her big ideas. Here are some highlights:
- During the 40’s, before television, special events were used to get word and name recognition for one's clients. In order to get attention for one of her Hollywood clients, Klein orchestrated a PR stunt where students were instructed to hold up placards to spell the name of her client’s upcoming movie “Duel In the Sun” during a rivalry football game between UCLA and USC. She then interested a LIFE Magazine photographer in snapping the photo, which ran nationwide.
- Klein also had an idea for an early form of product placement. She was assigned to promote the 1948 movie ―Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. In those days, in the hotels, bellboys would shout the name of a person who had a telephone call. So she suggested that her firm call different hotels at dinner time and other times and ask for Blandings. So all throughout the city they were paging the character in her movie around the time that the movie was opening.
- In the 1950’s African American girls had to play with white dolls because there were no black dolls available on the market. Klein worked with a number of famous African Americans to come up with a natural looking complexion for the black doll. Her client, Ideal Toy Corporation, didn't want to process with the doll‘s production because he believed that the target audience would not have the money to purchase it. However, Klein persisted and convinced the client by saying she could obtain a lot of good publicity. Not only did she get a lot of positive coverage, but the doll was very popular.
- Klein used a former U.S. Olympic swimming champion, as the model and media tour spokesperson for their client‘s novel washable leather gloves. She brought in television cameras to film the former Olympian swimming in a hotel pool in the morning with her gloves on, then had the media back for tea later in the day when the model wore the same gloves, now dry.