Ruth Hammond APR, FCPRS
Ruth Hammond began her career as a teacher of English and History in Ontario and in the Bahamas in the 1940s. Returning to Canada, she moved on to a journalism career and became a reporter with The Toronto Star
, and served as Women’s Editor from 1946-1950.
As a member of Canada’s first newspaper Guild at The Toronto Star, Ruth was among the first women to speak out in the interests of achieving significant gains in terms of employee salaries, rights, and working conditions in the newsrooms of the day.
Ruth later formed her own public relations consulting company. Among her first clients was Kate Aitken, then one of Canada’s foremost journalists. Ruth took over the public relations program for the Women’s Division of the Canadian National Exhibition.
During the 1950s, charitable organizations were growing across Canada and many of them needed communications assistance. Ruth was invited by many of the leaders of these organizations to provide help in managing their communications and external relations programs including the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Heart & Stroke Foundation, The Lung Association, the YM/YWCA of Canada, Girl Guides of Canada, as well as the United Way. With extensive experience and her contacts in the media, Ruth was also a valuable resource for any fund-raising campaign.
In 1956, Ruth Hammond joined the Canadian Public Relations Society, one of the first women public relations consultants to participate in Society activities.
Her early work with Girl Guides of Canada involved making a film featuring an international camp conference and coordinating feature radio interviews with the international campers. Her corporate clients included, coincidently, Christie Brown and Company Limited, which she tied in with her work for the Girl Guides. Hammond also provided communications consulting for such firms as Metropolitan Life Assurance Company and Xerox Canada and she managed the publicity for development of the Guild Inn in Scarborough.
Hammond was asked to work with Young and Rubicam when the company established a public relations bureau as part of its advertising agency with clients such as Metropolitan Life Assurance, Xerox Canada, Lipton, Procter and Gamble and other major international companies.
Her career also included a stint as Public Relations Director, North America, for Drake International Limited, Director of Public Relations and Alumni Affairs for the Ontario College of Art, and Vice-President and General Manager, Public Relations, for Vickers and Benson Advertising.
Committed to public relations education, Ruth Hammond established, with her colleagues, public relations courses at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University), York University, and the University of Toronto.
A director of the Canadian Public Relations Society (Toronto) from 1969-1974, she was a driving force behind the establishment of a professional accreditation process for The Society.
Professional and Community Service
- Valuable Service Award, Belmont House Foundation, 2002
- Canadian Public Relations Society College of Fellows, 2001
- Honorary Doctorate, Hum.Litt., Mount Saint Vincent University, 1998
- Philip A. Novikoff Memorial Award, Canadian Public Relations Society, 1995
- Life Member, Canadian Public Relations Society, 1989 to present
- Award of Excellence in Communications, Ontario Community Colleges, 1986
- Award of Excellence, Ontario College of Art, 1982
- YWCA, Woman of Distinction Award, 1985
- Certificate of Achievement, Public Relations and Education, Government of Ontario, 1985
- International Association of Business Communicators, Gold Quill of Excellence, 1980 for External Communications Programs, Ontario College of Art
- Award of Attainment, Canadian Public Relations Society, 1979
- First Woman Accredited, Canadian Public Relations Society, 1968
- Member, Canadian Public Relations Society, 1956 - 1989
HAMMOND’S REFLECTIONS ON CHANGES IN PRACTICE SINCE 1950
Changes in Strategic Communications Planning
- Director, Belmont House Foundation, 1998-2002
- Director, Toronto Press Club, 1980-1994
- Director, Canadian Public Relations Society (Toronto), 1969-1974
- President, Canadian Women’s Press Club, Toronto, 1966-1967
The practice of public relations is more strategic now. We are accumulating a body of knowledge. Everyone is more concerned with doing appropriate research and evaluation rather than focusing on tactics alone. The recognition of the Race Formula as a map to broaden and establish our work has been invaluable.
One area of significant change, however, is media relations. It seems as though nothing said in any kind of public forum is considered "off the record" any more. The trust between journalist and the public has been affected adversely. Public relations firms have to be even more careful about how they manage a news event or guide an executive who participates in a news conference. Conversely, better relationships and trust have resulted when both sides have matured and cooperate.
In my time as a journalist, you could not express anything that was simply your own. You wrote a news story with just the facts, as much as humanly possible, without any bias or slant. At the Star
, I was the first woman permitted to work on the city desk. I would notice personal items in a news story and edit them out. I was taught to edit out what appeared to be personal opinions or 'slants' and research them if in doubt. With a byline, the writer stands behind his words. But now, more and more, you see news stories carrying a definite slant that is a 'no-no'
. Then we had editors, veterans of news reporting, who reviewed the research, the copy and proofed it, over and over again. Now, it seems a story goes straight to the newsroom, is put on the electronic news highway, and published. There is less emphasis on accuracy and objectivity.
Changes in Reputation Management
Public relations has changed over time in the way in which firms accept outside consultants. In former days, large firms utilized their own staff to carry out activities that would be called 'public affairs'
in their organization. There is a much greater awareness today about the necessity of involving public relations professionals in assisting managers to meet their needs and the needs of the corporation.
There have been instances where public relations professionals having signed a contract, have been ordered by senior management to carry out assignments, even though they may not have been appropriate or ethical. Today, with a more enlightened and educated population, large firms are becoming more aware of best practices, how to work with public relations personnel, and how to serve the public interest when reviewing their portfolios and work programs.
Changes in How Public Relations is Practiced
When I entered the journalism field, public relations was called "publicity"
in a more informal sense. More often, men rather than women managed the public affairs of large firms and corporations. They knew men who were on the board of directors, they had the advantage of key contacts in the communities they served. Men continued to develop their public relations networking. To some extent, at least initially, women were at a disadvantage. They had not been allowed to penetrate the male-only networking system and perform case assignments as men did. Women had the skills and the determination to succeed but they needed to be allowed to practice in the profession. Thankfully, today this is far from being universal. Women are more adaptable and, I was assured by a male colleague, 'born negotiators'!
I started to develop my own key contacts and business associations as I advanced in the public relations field. I had experience in print media and I used my understanding of how media works to best advantage.
In part, I helped to advance the educational opportunities for both men and women in public relations, to develop course curricula at colleges and universities, and to persuade business and continuing education faculties that course content in public relations is a necessary and beneficial component of a well-rounded public relations education. I also helped faculty members change the way in which public relations is taught.
In the immediate post-war era, the subject was taught from American textbooks, with more emphasis on the theoretical than the practical. We persuaded the academics to see the value in teaching the profession with case studies that are recent and relevant to public relations. I enlisted the support of veteran practitioners to give guest lectures to students, and to give practical examples of case assignments they had managed. Students learned, first-hand, what approaches had succeeded and what ideas had failed.
We are more professional now no longer focusing only on media. When I started, we did not have Accreditation. It is important to gain that designation. I know that some practitioners do not see the value in the process, but they have to think beyond whether 'they know they are good'. In my early days, we fought hard to establish the Accreditation process in order to provide high standards in the field. Future generations must continue to support that kind of professionalism. If we are ever to be a real 'profession', we must have measurable standards.
Favourite Public Relations Achievement
In 1968, I had the good fortune of being the first woman accredited by the Canadian Public Relations Society. In former years, we never had a good Canadian book on public relations. Forbes LeClair and I wrote a book based on our Canadian experience, entitled Public Relations for Small Business
, soon to be followed by several textbooks related to our Canadian as well as international references.
My favourite achievements are all related to advancing the profession in terms of education and professional development. In 1985, I received a certificate from Premier William Davis of the Government of Ontario that recognized my involvement in furthering the education of Ontario citizens. It reads, in part, as follows:
"...Ruth has given selflessly of her spare time to serve the cause of public relations education. For the past twenty years, generations of students have attended her stimulating evening classes at Ryerson, York University and the University of Toronto. [Ruth was] an indispensable element to the quality of public relations in Canada – today and tomorrow."
And, of course, the YWCA Women of Distinction Award, and the Honorary Doctorate from Mount Saint Vincent University were also important in recognizing the advancement of the profession.
Worst Moment in Public Relations
Once, I lost Hubert Humphrey, Vice-President of the United States. I could not find him anywhere. He was travelling from Boston, Massachusetts, and he had stopped briefly in Montreal and spoke there. He was scheduled to give a speech in Ottawa to the joint Members of Parliament. In Toronto, we had arranged a special media room for television and radio officials, with a separate room where everyone could have a special interview with him. The officials phoned Ottawa to say that they had phoned Montreal and received word that he had not arrived. He was to speak at two o’clock and they did not know where he was. They were frantic. I phoned all the United States contacts and even the American Embassy said they didn’t know where he was. We finally discovered that Hubert Humphrey had been offered a limousine by one of the members of parliament. The limousine had become stuck in a snow bank and the driver and Vice-President were rescued by a truck driver. For five hours, the United States government and the Canadian government did not know where Hubert Humphrey was while he rattled through snow banks in a truck to Ottawa.
When I began my association with CPRS in the 1950s, people were always contacting our members about getting jobs, and wanting to interview young people looking for jobs. I wondered whether we couldn’t establish a service where we could help aspiring public relations professionals, a place where CPRS members could come to us for assistance. I started a separate entity for this purpose and I was helping all kinds of young professionals but was not receiving any remuneration for my efforts. It certainly took up a lot of my time.
With help from our members, we set-up such a service from my office. Large professional head-hunters soon used it freely, asking huge 'finders fees', but refusing to reimburse the public relations society a small fee to support our education fund.
Fortunately, Mel James, public relations director, Bell Canada, took on and supported the service – an invaluable one to help young people wanting to get a foothold in the profession.
Advice to People Who Enter the Profession
I do not think that anybody should take a business course of any kind without a component of public relations. Everyone in business needs to have a grounding in communications theory and practice. My advice would be to find a really good general course in public relations and take it. Do not specialize in any one thing.
You need to be a generalist – you have to know enough about politics, media, and strategic communications to do well in the profession. But it either works or it doesn’t. Doing well in public relations takes a good deal of common sense. And, find yourself a great mentor.
I have shown my students that the press is mighty. You have to be very careful about what you say or do. If you let something out of the box, you cannot get it back in again. A perfect example of this has been United States President George Bush. Regarding foreign policy, the conflict in Iraq and the Middle East, Bush has had difficulty persuading the American people to think differently about what he has said and done. What he has let out of the box, he cannot suppress!
Future of Public Relations
I am very impressed with what has happened during the last few years in the public relations field. In the industry, there is a higher regard for Accreditation. Our APR designation must continue to reflect the high standards that have been carefully developed and nurtured. It must only be awarded to people who have truly earned it.
We have achieved a position in public relations where the industry is more respected. Generally speaking, public relations professionals are more sharing and generous with information than they used to be. However, we should continue to develop more trust in our relations with fellow professionals and the people we serve.
I have a concern about the impact of computer technology on our ability to do work. Today, people do not have the staff support that they used to have. They do not have back-up help. People are working harder and they are working longer hours than they used to.
Today, mentoring has become more challenging because we don’t have the traditional support staff with us in our daily work. At times, we appear to be too busy to mentor and train others who are the future in our profession.
I keep up with public relations literature and I meet regularly with CPRS Fellows. The Canadian Public Relations Society and the field have a brilliant future, but in order to ensure that we achieve our goals and objectives, we should be pausing and looking back as well as forward. In this regard, I recall a quotation that reads, "Remember, every generation is carried forward in the arms of the generation before."