Abstract: Public Relations, National Development, and Foreign Policy: Italian State-Owned Enterprises in the 1950s

Fabio Lavista


The vast majority of Italian large-sized enterprises did not establish a public relations department until after World War II. The first adoption of well thought out public relations campaigns was related to the Italian ''economic miracle'' at the end of the 1950s. But there is another important reason that can explain the timing. Before World War II, the number of giant enterprises in Italy was very small, and the majority of them had strict relationships both with the fascist regime and with major national newspapers. With the advent of a democratic regime after the war, major economic actors needed to search for consensus. This institutional change influenced the behavior of both private and public enterprises, but the public sector reacted more quickly. During postwar reconstruction, state-owned enterprises found themselves in the middle of a fierce debate about their role in the market and, more generally, their own existence. The paper, focusing in particular on Eni, the main Italian oil public holding company, shows that the imitation and adaptation of the American model of public relations was, in fact, a consequence of the U.S. productivity campaign developed along with the European Recovery Program. But it was also a result of the new needs of Italian large-sized industrial groups.