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Qualitative Methods

Several qualitative methods are used to gather data. Each method presented as follows can be a
stand-alone method to collect data or used in conjunction with another method to collect data.

Historical and Secondary Research

Historical and secondary research are closely related. Historical method is found in almost all fields,
but is considered a qualitative method when the end result is the gathering of historical facts and figures
(often this occurs during the definitional stage of a research project). Historical data, for instance, may be
vital to understanding the causes for a crisis. Comparative historical studies can be employed to
determine whether dif- ferent responses for similar types of studies were more or less effective and
Secondary research is learning what one can from sources, such as documents and archives.
Historical/secondary research can be broken into two complementary parts: strict data gathering and
rhetorical analysis.
Qualitative Research 767

Case Studies
The case study is an in-depth look at an orga- nization, event, issue or topic, or public relations
campaign. It is specific to a particular problem, occasion, or opportunity, and the researcher often uses
historical and secondary methods in addition to other qualitative methods (such as interviews) in
constructing the case. The case is simply a topic, organization, or issue under study. Subjects that help the
researcher understand the case are usually called informants. Informants may pro- vide formal
interviews, documents, informal insights, or simply let the researcher observe their day-to-day
interactions. This methodology also applies to developing strategies and testing them to understand the
discourse basis for responses, programs, and reactions. This approach can, for instance, shed light on how
publics construct opinions and develop responses to corporate activities.

An interview asks questions and thereby gener- ates data in the participant’s own words. A par- ticipant
is asked a series of questions designed to gain information from an individual about them- selves
personally, or about events, or other things. The interview is controlled largely by interviewers, who have,
through historical/secondary research, done background research on the intended topic. An interview
schedule or questionnaire is then used to ensure that all relevant questions are answered and subsequent
probe or extended ques- tions are sometimes employed and the interview- ee’s responses are recorded
for later analysis.

Long Interviews
These interviews occur over a long period of time, or successive interviews, generally culminat- ing in
more than 3 hours of interview time for each participant. The goal of long interviews is to allow a lengthy
enough time to discuss numerous subjects in detail for a full understanding of a complex organization or

In-Depth Interviews
In-depth interviews delve very deeply into one specific subject, such as ethics. Unrelated subjects
may be touched on tangentially, but in-depth interviews seek detailed understanding of one phe-
nomenon, issue, or topic.

Dyad and Triad Interviews

These interviews include two or three people who have a commonality and discuss an issue together.
For example, the three public relations professionals who manage an oil spill crisis together may be
interviewed in a triadic interview. Doing so captures their collective understanding of situations often
yielding more complete data than individual interviews.

Elite Interviews
These interviews seek to capture the under- standings of those at the very apex of an organiza- tion or
an issue, such as a CEO, a president, or a chief communication officer. Elite interviews are exceptionally
rare because they are difficult to attain. The limited amount of access to most elites by researchers, and
the constraints on the time and availability of elites lead to very few elite inter- views being conducted.
Despite the drawbacks, elite interviews are remarkably valuable in that they provide a unique
perspective from the top of an organization—that perspective normally includes a far more complex
understanding than most participants offer. Data from elite interviews are correspondingly rich;
therefore, these studies are often published with smaller numbers of par- ticipants or even one
informant as the primary source of data.

Focus Groups
Expanding the concept of interviews to a larger group of people discussing a topic is the concept behind
the focus group. Focus groups are used extensively in public relations research, marketing research, and
many forms of integrated research topics. For firms in the research industry that col- lect data for clients,
focus groups are the most com- mon form of qualitative research conducted, and it would be unthinkable
not to conduct focus groups for a major study. The focus group method of research collects information
from a group of par- ticipants who focus on a specific concern, concept, or product.
768 Quantitative Research

Document Analysis
Document analysis is used to systematically quantify the terms, concepts, policies, or issues that occur in
some form of text, such as a website, orga- nizational policy manuals, charts of organizational structure, and
so on. Although document analysis can be a stand-alone research method, it is normally used in the public
relations context as a supporting method to understand a case. It differs from histori- cal or secondary
analysis because document analy- sis creates new, unique research—known only to the researcher—based
on systematically studying the documents of an organization or client. These types of studies may help to
understand the processes of an organization, to increase efficiency or simplify
Holsti, O. (1969). Content analysis for the social sciences and humanities. New York: Free Press.
Stacks, D. (Ed.). (2002). Dictionary of public relations measurement and research. Gainesville, FL: Institute for
Public Relations.
Stacks, D. (2005). Qualitative research. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Encyclopedia of public relations (pp. 725–728). Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage.
Stacks, D. (2011). Primer of public relations research
(2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.
Stake, R. E. (1994). Case studies. In N. K. Denzin &
Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 236–247). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
tasks, or to identify overlaps or gaps in communica-
tion. Various forms of charts and diagrams are
Quantitative ReseaRch
employed to represent the amalgamation of data
gained through document analysis.
Documents can be subjected to various kinds of textual and discursive analysis. Such analysis offers
insights into perspectives that may complement one another or compete in ways that lay the basis for
conflict. For instance, employees in an agency might be asked to make statements and those state- ments
are compared to the policies and procedures of the organization to determine the employees’ sense of
power concentration and distribution. It can reveal standards of professionalism and deter- mine whether
employees believe that performance biases occur because of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual preference.
Shannon A. Bowen
See also Content Analysis; Evaluative Research; Focus Group; Formative Research; Gender and Public Relations; Identity
Theory; Interview as a Research Tool; Power, as Social Construction; Quantitative Research; Race and Public Relations;
Situation Analysis; Theory-Based Practice

Further Readings
Atkinson, P., & Hammersley, M. (1994). Ethnography and participant observation. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S.
Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 248–261). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hocking, J., Stacks, D., & McDermott, S. (2003).
Communication research (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Quantitative research is almost always associated

with the formal evaluation of numbers. That is, quantitative research is something that extends from the
physical sciences to the social sciences and focuses on methods that follow certain prescribed rules for the
gathering of, typically, numeric data. That said, it is important to understand that num- bers by themselves
have no meaning except the meaning that we establish in our theory. Quantita- tive research, then, focuses
on research methods that allow researchers to say, with a certain degree of confidence, that something they
systematically measured (via numbers) actually represents a larger number of people, or that something
actually caused a change in something else.
The key to quantitative research is found in
(1) measurement and (2) the collection of data in such a way that it can be reliably and validly inter- preted
when replicated by others. This, in turn, is found in the formal rules of quantitative research methods. These
methods include survey research and experimental research, but arguments have been made to include
content analysis as a formal, quan- titative method. However, the majority of content- analytic studies focus on
simple counts (Was a release picked up or not? Where or when was it reported?); thus, its use is more
informal than for- mal. (It must be noted that thematic content analy- ses, which require a measurement
item or scale for evaluation may approach the formal nature of quantitative measurement.)
Quantitative Research 769

The key to any quantitative method is the gath- ering of data via some form of measurement.
Measurement is the assigning of numbers to observations in a manner that establishes validity and whose
reliability can be assessed. All attempts at evaluating the attitudes, beliefs, or values of others requires the
creation of some type of scale, a measure that focuses not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.
Measurement scales attempt to identify how people will or have behaved, and why they behave in those
ways. Once the data are gathered, it is analyzed using statistical analysis. Because the responses to stimuli
questions or experimental conditions are collected as numeric data, they are submitted to descriptive
and/or inferential statistical analysis. This analysis col- lapses the individual responses to those of the
group to which the individuals belong.
Quantitative research differs significantly from qualitative research in that quantitative research
methods are not concerned with individual respon- dents per se. Users of quantitative research are more
interested in how large numbers of subjects respond to stimuli. Thus, whereas qualitative methods
provide rich data, quantitative methods provide normative data that can be parsed accord- ing to
demographic or psychographic differences.
Part of quantitative research involves how data are collected. Because it is impossible to follow all
members of a population around or ask them questions regarding their intentions to exhibit a behavior,
quantitative research samples from a population in an effort to draw conclusions from the sampling.
Public relations research often sur- veys respondents from a given population to better understand how
people feel or behave. Some sam- pling techniques allow for conclusions that describe only those people
who might have been available at the time of data collection. Other sampling tech- niques allow
conclusions to be drawn about the larger population from which the sample was obtained. The former
sampling techniques are called nonprobability (or convenience) sampling, whereas the latter are called
probability sampling. Sampling also occurs in experimental research.
Experimental sampling is not concerned with gen- eralizing to a larger population. Instead, it is employed
to ensure that participants are chosen in such a way as to discount any possible biases that participants
bring with them to the experiment.
The dominant quantitative research method found in public relations is the survey or poll. Polls are
distinguished from surveys by their length and the type of information that each attempts to obtain. Polls
are very short—often comprising no more than 10 questions, including demographic or psy- chographic
information—and last a few minutes at most. Surveys are longer, often taking over 15 minutes to
complete, and attempt to delve into the reasoning behind why respondents think or act as they do. Both
polls and surveys sample from a larger population.
When respondents are randomly selected from the population in such a way that any member could
have participated in the study—a probability sample—the results can be generalized to that larger
population. When respondents are selected due to availability or because of certain characteristics—a
nonprobability sample—the results are limited in their ability to be generalized beyond those people
surveyed or polled. Probability sampling allows researchers to estimate both how accurately they sampled
the population and the potential for error in the measurement of respondents’ answers. Non- probability
sampling, while allowing for estimates of measurement error, cannot establish sampling accu- racy because
the sample was not drawn at random. There are two basic survey or poll types. The most common is
the “snapshot,” wherein one set of respondents is surveyed or polled once. When researchers are
interested in what people think over time, a cross-sectional survey or poll is con- ducted. Cross-
sectional surveys or polls measure from a population at various times and allow for comparison, and
are often called “longitudinal” research designs. Cross-sectional designs are of three types: trend, in
which different snapshots are taken from different samples over time; panel, in which the same sample
is measured at various points in time; and the cohort-trend design, which follows different groups who
share certain charac- teristics, such as age (e.g., a yearly survey of
18-year-olds of their views on voting).
Surveys or polls can be conducted in a variety of ways. Most commonly, respondents are asked
questions over the telephone. Other ways of con- tacting people to gather survey or poll data include
physical, person-to-person contact where a formal interview is conducted; the mail questionnaire, in
770 Quantitative Research

which a questionnaire is printed and mailed to respondents; and the electronic (Internet or fax) method,
in which questionnaires are sent to respon- dents via facsimile or on the Internet.

The experiment is rarely found in public relations research. Experiments typically test theoretical rela-
tionships between concepts and are the only way that a researcher can infer that something actually caused
something else to occur. Experiments are highly controlled and contrived research projects that establish, in
isolation, the impact of one vari- able (a concept or idea that has been defined in such a way as to be
potentially observable or mea- sured) on another. Experimental variables are either measured (the
dependent variable) or manipulated (the independent variable) under highly controlled circumstances. It is
this control that allows the researcher to say within a certain degree of confi- dence that the impact of
changing the independent variable caused a change in the dependent variable. Further, because of the formal
nature of experimen- tal measurement, the dependent variable’s reliabil- ity and validity can be established
and compared to preestablished accepted norms.
The experiment also allows very sophisticated statistical analyses to be conducted. Because of the
experiment’s controlled nature, the direction of and confidence in the impact of one variable on another
can be estimated and presented within
those set acceptance levels (typically a 95% level of confidence that one variable caused a change in the
other variable). Further, because the relationships between the variables are theoretically established, the
impact of several independent variables on one or more dependent variables can also be examined. The
experiment is a very powerful research method. Its very power, however, is also a limita- tion. Whereas
a random survey of a sample allows researchers to generalize results to the larger popu- lation, the
experiment’s generalizability is almost nonexistent. The experiment’s need for control makes findings
difficult to extend to other con- texts, but it does tell us that under the same cirumstances a causal
relationship will exist.
Don W. Stacks

See also Experiment/Experimental Methods; Measuring/ Measures; Reliability; Sampling; Scales; Statistical Analysis;
Survey; Validity

Further Readings
Holsti, O. (1969). Content analysis for the social sciences and humanities. New York: Free Press.
Pavlik, J. (1987). Public relations: What research tells us.
Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Stacks, D. (Ed.). (2002). Dictionary of public relations measurement and research. Gainesville, FL: Institute for
Public Relations.
Stacks, D. (2002). Primer of public relations research.
New York: Guilford.
Race and Public Relations
Race and public relations can be productive part- ners or roadblocks to one another in the pursuit of a
fully functioning society.

Race is a social construction with powerful impli- cations for the practice and study of public rela- tions as
well as the quality of the context in which it occurs and the purposes to which it is applied. Being a social
construction, race is bound by lan- guage. Subject to interpretation, it can be defined, redefined, and
changed throughout time, and does not necessarily translate constructively across space, boundaries, and
cultures. Such social con- struction is based on perceived scientific, biological differences that have
myriad power and relation- ship consequences.
Throughout history, people have used pheno- types or physical characteristics—which include but are
not limited to hair texture, shape of nose, and skin pigmentation—to create classification systems that are
used to functionally categorize humans. However, “attempts to employ racial classifications for humans
based on scientific cri- teria have foundered because they were too rigid to account for the tremendous
variation within different races” (Scupin, 2006, p. 156). Clearly bounded, racially distinct populations do
not exist—cannot be found in the world. Yet despite the scientific evidence discounting the biological
demarcation of race(s), it remains a powerful, unifying or divisive social construct that has implications
for the practice and discipline of public relations—and the identities and quality of life of individuals and

Public Relations
Academics, practitioners, media commentators, and the lay public vary on their definition of public
relations; however, they view public relations as including but not being limited to the following
functions: understanding inner workings of the strategic communication process or the relation- ships
that result from the process; exploring how to make that process better by strengthening rela- tionships
between organizations and publics; dis- covering what factors impede, thwart, or stymie the facilitation
of the process or the building of relationships; and unearthing the role that power differentials between
organizations and publics play in the strategic communication process or the relationship-building
process, even the quality of society where such activity occurs. As much as it entails process, public
relations wrestles with language-based meanings, a reality significant to the role it plays in race, and vice
Race plays a role in the types of jobs practitioners hold and the types of assignments they receive. Prac-
titioners might be pigeonholed, meaning that they become the organization’s liaisons who are primarily
responsible for public relations efforts that involve the racial group that they “represent.” For example, Nneka
Logan (2011) discussed what she coined as

772 Railroad Industry in the 19th Century

the White leader prototype in public relations. The White leader prototype is “a historically constituted,
ideological discursive formation that organizes pro- fessional roles along racialized lines in ways that privilege
people who are considered a part of the White racial category” (p. 443). Further, it “commu- nicates the notion
that leaders in public relations are (or should be) White, which reproduces Whites as actual leaders in a self-
sustaining system that makes White leadership appear normal, neutral, and natu- ral, rather than the result of
racialized practices” (p. 443). Her analysis of practitioners in public rela- tions positions of leadership found
that the vast majority were White despite the increased entrance of African American, Hispanic, Asian
American, and Native American (AHANA) persons into the disci- pline. This focus on segmenting and
instrumental- izing publics for purposes of selling products and services is a shallow use of public relations’
poten- tial regarding race. Such practitioner perspectives can see race as a variable—something to be instru-
mentalized and managed through public relations.
In terms of public relations as an academic dis- cipline, race as an area of thoughtful consideration is
fledgling but gaining increased attention. Schol- ars are exploring the role race plays in the risks (living
near a landfill, chemical company, or nuclear site) that persons are or are not exposed to, overall health
and wellness of persons, the life chances that persons might or might not have, the education they may or
may not attain, as well as how organizations knowingly or unknowingly manage or mismanage
relationships with all raced persons—for everyone is raced.
From a critical perspective, Lee Edwards (2012) presented a theoretical discussion of race and public
relations. Society is inequitable; public relations operates on local, national, and global levels. Mar- ginalized
persons (publics, stakeholders and com- munities, including stigmatized racial groups) face greater
disadvantage than other less or nonstigma-
matters in public relations when organizations are interested in dealing with raced persons or when
racially marginalized persons challenge an organization is wayward. Practitioners and schol- ars must
explore the myriad ways that race shapes and influences the practice of public rela- tions as well as be
cognizant of subtle or blatant ways that public relations perpetuates racial dys- functions throughout

Damion Waymer

See also Critical Race Theory; Fully Functioning Society Theory; Public Relations; Social Construction of Reality

Further Readings
Edwards, L. (2010). ‘‘Race’’ in public relations. In
R. L. Heath (Ed.), The SAGE handbook of public relations (pp. 205–221). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Edwards, L. (2012). Critical race theory and public relations. In D. Waymer (Ed.), Culture, social class, and race in
public relations: Perspectives and applications (Chap. 5). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Logan, N. (2011). The White leader prototype: A critical analysis of race in public relations. Journal of Public
Relations Research, 23, 442–457.
Munshi, D., & Edwards, L. (2011). Understanding ‘race’ in/and public relations: Where do we start and where should
we go? Journal of Public Relations Research, 23, 349–367.
Scupin, R. (2006). Cultural anthropology: A global perspective (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Waymer, D. (2010). Does public relations scholarship have a place in race? In R. L. Heath (Ed.), The SAGE handbook of
public relations (pp. 237–246).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

tized groups. Thus, public relations scholars and

practitioners are obligated to address the ways in which public relations contributes to or combats this
inequity in terms of its internal structure and culture, its practices, its effects, and the meanings with which it
In practice and theory, race plays a key role in public relations, and public relations plays an integral
role in race. To assume that race only
RailRoad industRy in the 19th centuRy
The railroad industry dramatically changed the United States during the 19th century. It gave rationale
and lots of work to journalists and other writers who molded the practice of public relations.
Railroad Industry in the 19th Century 773

In that regard, the railroads helped spawn the public relations profession.
The relationship was synergistic. Public rela- tions helped gain acceptance for this essential ele- ment
of the U.S. infrastructure at a time when it met lots of resistance. It was noisy and spewed sparks. It scared
people and farm animals. It was opposed because it competed with established modes of transportation.
Public relations added to the ability of railroad entrepreneurs to gain legisla- tive support for their
innovation. Once the rail- roads were beginning their operation, they needed to expand. They would die
without markets for their services. They used far-reaching promotion campaigns to attract riders and
Before, during, and after the Civil War, vast regions of the East, Midwest, Southwest, and Far West
began to open to farmers and merchants. Railroads followed and facilitated westward migration.
Minerals, farm products, and other resources could now be moved over longer dis- tances. All of this
activity was a source of raw materials, labor, and markets for new industrial products, especially farm
implements and other industrial equipment.
As it was introduced to the fledgling railroad industry, society was hesitant to adopt this indus- trial
beast that shocked citizens’ sensibilities of safety. The industry truly was unsafe. Engines could start fires
along the lines. Employees worked at great risk, a problem that persisted into the 20th century.
Newspaper editors and other con- cerned citizens alarmed citizens to the peril of this industrial monster.
By 1850, much of this opposition had waned. Events demonstrated the virtue of rail transporta- tion.
Towns welcomed the arrival of railroad ser- vice. Bands played. Politicians spoke. Local militia marched
and displayed community enthusiasm for the trains that brought mail, relatives and friends, and freight.
The Civil War demonstrated the virtues of an efficient rail system. Without doubt, one of the advantages
of the Union during the war was supe- rior ability to move men and materials strategically and quickly.
The Civil War also cost the lives and working ability of thousands of men in the prime of life. Immigrants
were needed to open the new regions of the nation, exploit its resources, and supply industrial labor
Public relations was a fledgling profession at the time. The broad array of newspapers served as a
primary mass medium supplying information and appeals to a broad set of audiences. This medium,
coupled with other forms of communication, became widely and enthusiastically applied to pub- licize
and promote railroads and the countryside they opened to domestic and foreign laborers and families
looking for a better future.
Railroads needed settlers. They were heavily subsidized by a federal government willing to give land,
which could be sold to finance railroad con- struction and operation. To turn raw land into operating
capital, the executives of the rail indus- try turned to professional communicators to get the word out
that land was available. Opportunity awaited those who were bold. Bounty was to be had for the taking.
This migration would sell land. Farmers would produce crops. They would need supplies and equipment.
Towns would spring up like prairie flowers in spring. Vast fortunes would be made. States would be
established. Minerals would be brought east to the manufacturing cen- ters. The nation and its citizens
would prosper. Popular culture would develop as legends aban- doned facts. Even the motion picture
industry, not even born, would use the West and railroads as the fodder of countless visions on the
flickering screen. No longer was the western migration moving at the speed of plodding animals pulling
wagons. The scream of the whistle time and again announced a new force firing the nation. This was a
dream. But people needed to get the message and fall in love with the dream.
The publicity effort in one sense was simple. Newspaper persons were hired by railroad compa- nies or
thriving communities to write books and favorable news stories that would reach target audiences. Or
newspaper persons were given free trips with ample adventure and boosterism conver- sations. Countless
writers strained their thesauruses to find ever more glowing terms to fuel the migra- tion. These messages
were translated into languages of all of the people of Europe and even China, where labor was abundant
and times were hard.
As is ever the case with companies, railroad companies needed to achieve name recognition. Regions
and towns were made legendary by the names that became embedded in popular culture: Baltimore &
Ohio; Southern Pacific; Northern
774 Railroad Industry in the 19th Century

Pacific; Great Northern; Burlington; Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe; Denver & Rio Grande; Illi- nois
Central. The Southern Pacific knew that it needed markets to be viable. Even before its rails reached Los
Angeles, its publicist, Charles Nord- hoff, was hired. He was a reporter for the New York Evening Post who
understood the Eastern press. He wrote California for Health, Pleasure and Residence, published in 1872,
to attract a wide array of readers who identified with those motives. Publicity was used to demonstrate to
influential citizens the need for certain routes. Owners attracted investors and built relationships with
legislators. These relationships often led to prob- lematic business relationships. Perhaps the worst was
the willingness of legislators to overlook the railroads’ notorious lack of safety. Railroad opera- tions
killed or injured workers by the hundreds. Safety devices solved part of the problem, but labor
relations were a constant source for the need
of public relations.
As much as it needed continuing government relations, the industry fostered publicity and pro- motion.
Techniques developed by the industry became the stock and trade for the profession. Investors needed to
be assured that each company operated in ways that protected and promoted the interests of
shareholders. Personal contacts were always important. Rail leaders wanted to be able to talk personally
with legislators, newspaper people, investors, and influential local citizens. Favorable press was sought.
Boosterism was the constant message set before this array of publics. The industry hired lobbyists.
Prominent citizens from other walks of life could look forward to being paid for their opinions on
extending railroad routes, as well as for their defense of rates and safety records.
Promotion required an endless string of favor- able newspaper stories. Meetings and conventions were
held. Some were staged events that in turn could be the subject of favorable news reports and editorials.
Advertising was widely used. Newspa- pers that needed advertising dollars might be less willing to write
harsh and accurate stories about the industry.
Secret press agents were widely employed. Reporters and editors were offered free passes. A trade
association sponsoring the industry publica- tion, Railway Age, established in 1880 a Bureau of
Information. Executives were quite willing to commission and fund favorable books and arti- cles.
Railway staff might write such articles and then look for prominent citizens who would lend their names
as authors. The objective was to get opinion leaders to support and promote the indus- try. Such leaders
were co-opted to be “objective” spokespersons for the industry in an effort to attract support of other
power elites. Local officials within a community—or even the governor—could often be relied on to
participate in ground-breaking ceremonies.
Guidebooks and pamphlets were published in huge quantities. These publicity tools extolled the
virtues of the West as the land of opportunity. Often quite shoddy in content as well as publica- tion
standards, these tools were often remarkable in their exaggeration. Wealth and health were standard
themes. They featured opportunity to virtually every segment of the U.S. and European populations.
They placed stories in European newspapers to attract investors, labor, and cus- tomers. They exploited
chance circumstances. Having no role in the discovery of minerals in the West, they were quick to
broadcast discoveries to lure passengers to gold fields and merchants to prey on miners. They hauled ore
and supplied workers with food and dry goods. They made markets that they in turn served—the true
mark of the entrepreneur.
To residents in crowded cities and disparate parts of the world, the vast expanse of the American West
had huge appeal. Land offices were opened where people were likely to be looking for opportunity.
Pamphlets were published in English, German, French, and the languages of Scandinavia and Eastern
Europe. Letters from “success story” authors were placed in influential newspapers. These manufactured
firsthand accounts were car- ried by emigrants as “contracts” of their new and bountiful future. To
persons accustomed to think- ing of land parcels in the few acres, dreams of vast and unclaimed acreages
in the thousands were irresistible.
Without doubt, one of the greatest publicity stunts of American culture occurred on May 10, 1869, at
Promontory Point near Ogden, Utah. Dig- nitaries drove spikes of gold and silver to celebrate the
creation of a transcontinental railroad by link- ing the Union Pacific and Central Pacific. Another
Reflective Management 775
burgeoning industry made the event even more dramatic. Telegraph wires were attached to the
heads of the hammers and to spikes. Each time a hammer struck a spike that message was
transmit- ted to awaiting news reporters, dignitaries, and the general citizen. This moment
created a new word for the American vocabulary—transcontinental.
Practitioners, as the railroad industry demon- strated, were vital to gaining attention and
creating meaning that became part of a culture. They helped create a way of thinking and acting.
They also engaged in defensive efforts to protect an industry challenged on safety issues by
workers and by customers who fought for fair rates. Rail- roads helped to create the full range of
activities associated with public relations.

Robert L. Heath