Oral Histories

John M. Reed

Interview Segments on Topic: Arthur Page/Principles/Society/Center

John M. Reed Biography

John Reed, a pioneer in the development of international public relations, began his career following military duty in Korea and Japan and work with the United States Information Service, USIS, (known domestically as USIA).  His initial position in international PR occurred in 1960, when he joined the reorganized Olin Mathieson Corporation.  After a variety of similar positions with other international companies, he opened Consultants in Public Relations, SA, (CPRSA) in Geneva.  His first client was Johnson and Johnson.  After several years, he joined Control Data Corporation as vice president of public relations, but also continued his consultancy in Switzerland.  Reed’s career has spanned a wide variety of influence in public relations, covering international work in government, industry, consultancy and teaching.  Reed, a recipient of multiple awards and honors throughout his lifetime, continues to travel the world extensively.


Interviewer:  Over your experience, over the years can you identify a time when you came upon unethical persuasion, and how did you handle that and how did you confront it and how did you resolve it?

Reed:  Well the CPSUB, that is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Bolshevik, the original revolutionary group who, by the way, had an apologist by the name of John Reed who wrote Ten Days That Shook the World. I’ve been trying to live that down. He was from Oregon. It’s a boring book. Beatty was the fellow’s name. Beatty something William, Warren Beatty played him, played John Reed in the movies. Terrible! The, the early pronouncements of the Communist Party which sought global domination and the conquest of all countries and sent it out that that was what they would do, had parties in every country and would take them over, were flawed right from the beginning, because they said things that weren’t true. I read the early manifestos, the Communist Manifesto and when What is to be Done? one of the great textbooks of communism and realized that they were bound to fail but were time because they weren’t telling the truth.  And that impressed me very much and made me realize that I wasn’t just telling the truth because it was nice or the right thing to do, but because it was a winning, a winning ticket. It was the way to win the war, a way to win the world, a way to win men’s hearts. The truth shall make you free. And that, that experience in the Far East of seeing and reading and dealing with what the various Communist elements were using to persuade people in different countries to accept and to undertake the Communist regime taught me a lot about the truth. And that applies in commercial public relations as much as it does political public relations. When the, when the Communists were in the early days after WWII were really pushing and when Mao Tse Tung was consolidating his power, the Russians supplied textbooks to Japanese students in Japan at university level. Books about geography. Well the Committee for Free Asia guy and an academic pal discovered these geography books, which had the maps in the wrong place. That the lines were not drawn honestly. So they said I was on a visit and we had already done a project with collecting garden seeds for vegetables for the Philippines called Seeds for Democracy and we on the tabletop in a restaurant had sketched out books for Asian students project. We would get the geography classes of university students in the United States to donate their used textbooks and we’d take care of shipping them out and getting them into the hands of university students in Japan, knowing that if they were published in the United States that the lines would be correct for where the countries were and the descriptions of the countries would be accurate and truthful. And the Communists-supplied textbooks for geography be thrown out in the trash. And we did that. And it happened. This was profound. No one heard about it. No publicity was made about it. But tens of thousands of university students got the straight truth on where the Soviet Union ended and where whatever it was began, and American university students participated and supported that. I liked that.

Interviewer:  So did Arthur Page. That was one of his principles. Tell the truth.

Reed: Absolutely. It works. I mean, never mind whether you think it’s moral or not. And I do think it’s moral. It works. That taught me, those kinds of things taught me a lot that is, was later applicable to working for commercial clients.