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Creating the Corporate Soul: The Rise of Public Relations and Corporate Imagery in American Big Business Hardcover – November 1, 1998

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Around the turn of the century--long before corporations cared about such things as public image--society cowered beneath the lengthy shadows cast by monster companies. The soulless corporation, ensconced in monolithic skyscrapers and populated by army-sized staffs, was defended by smug men like J.P. Morgan, who believed he owed "the public nothing." One depression and a world war later, corporations began to realize the value of connecting with Main Street, small-town America. By recasting themselves as "good neighbors," businesses such as AT&T and U.S. Steel proved to consumers that they posed no threat to democracy or the American way. Roland Marchand's Creating the Corporate Soul provides a brilliant look at this transformation, showing how spin doctors gave these callous giants a thorough makeover. Filled with entertaining print ads and interesting case studies, the book shows us the power of public relations and corporate image. Marchand's exhaustive study may even prompt readers to take another look at modern corporations and ask them to reconsider what lies beneath their facades.

From Booklist

In a masterful display of research and perspicacity, similar to that found in his Advertising the American Dream, the late historian Marchand offers up his rendition of how the corporation gained its soul. From business image as a faceless entity under government and public siege in the late nineteenth century, he traces the evolution of spin doctoring and advertising to counteract such unfortunate utterances as Vanderbilt's "the public be damned." Examples are pulled from the (now) household-name variety of business, such as AT&T, Ford, GE, General Motors, and Heinz. Image making started with paternalistic employee welfare (e.g., cooking and sewing classes at NCR); it took shape with AT&T's human faces of telephone operators and linemen. It matured before and during World War II by way of corporate advertising, radio shows, movies, and world's fair exhibits. Surprisingly, there is no apparent indictment here of corporate communications. What's more, the author's theory about the different corporate personas is made real through extensive documentation as well as an extremely readable prose style. Barbara Jacobs

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Product Details

  • Series: Director's Circle Book
  • Hardcover: 470 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (November 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520087194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520087194
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,594,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 24, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an interesting work in business and cultural history. Roland Marchand documents the way corporations used (and developed) public relations to develop images of themselves in the public mind. This is really about the early decades and is quite fascinating. We see this today, certainly. For example, when some huge food conglomerate shows you some master chef each portion of the food they want you to buy, you are getting the same kind of treatment. It wouldn't do to show you the huge machines and food production lines that create these food products in vast quantities. No, they want you to think in terms of some impossibly personalized image. (Although recently I saw a television commerical for a breakfast cereal showing the machines making and packaging the food with some of the folks making it talking to the viewer about how great their product is.)

While some may feel the author of the book is more hostile to corporations than is actually appropriate, I think he has done a fine job in presenting us with these historical images and insightful text that supports his thesis. I am certainly pro-business and conservative. However, I in no way want to pretend that corporations are caring and personal entities that have objects other than providing profits for their shareholders at heart. There are a great many philosophical issues that can be discussed about the duties of corporations, and I am willing to engage in those debates, but no one should mistake these entities for families or friends (or monsters or enemies, either). Corporations are artificial creations that we have created to provide goods and services efficiently and thereby returning profits to shareholders. This book documents how they create images that help them accomplish those purposes.
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Format: Paperback
This book does a nice job of taking a dry subject and presenting it in an interesting way. It is nice reading about different companies "adventures" in advertising. I specifically liked the phone companies story and its attempt to avoid being labeled a monopoly. It is worth your time if you are interested in advertising, but is a rather dense read.
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