Abstract: Public Relations as Redevelopment Tool: Accentuating the Positive in Deindustrializing New England

David Koistinen

Abstract

Attempts to revitalize local economies hit by industrial downsizing have been explored by a number of historians. Scholars have paid little attention to the public relations aspect of these efforts. This paper argues that publicity campaigns can be a central component of redevelopment drives. The subject is explored through an examination of New England, which experienced widespread factory shutdowns in the early and mid-twentieth century. Pervasive negative impressions of the deindustrializing area economy set the stage for New England's public relations campaign. Plant closures demoralized regional residents. Their pessimism was amplified and widely disseminated by press coverage that highlighted the dire circumstances in the area and posited deep-seated economic flaws that would hinder recovery. The leaders spearheading the push for New England recovery feared that these negative images might further worsen conditions. In response, they mounted a vigorous publicity campaign highlighting the region's economic strengths. This effort made use of the techniques of modern advertising and public relations and featured the distortions that typify those fields. The drive to promote positive images of New England seems to have improved perceptions of the area economy and may have encouraged investment there.

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