The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 3 (July 1, 1932)
Railways Publicity Branch — General Range of Activities
This unit is responsible for the preparation and placing of the publicity matter required by New Zealand's largest enterprise. The Branch is completely organised and equipped for prompt and effective action in literary, press, art and photographic work.
To keep the public interested in the railways, acquainted with their services and favourable to their policy, to do constructive advertising such as would stimulate business activity, and to create amongst the railway staff increased interest in their work—these were the main purposes for which the Publicity Branch of the New Zealand Railways was organised in 1927. Much preparatory work had been done prior to this, including the commencement in May, 1926, of a Magazine which is now in its seventh year of successful publication.
The “New Zealand Railways Magazine.”
The former General Manager of Railways (Mr. H. H. Sterling) in his last Annual Report, commended the usefulness of the Magazine to the Department. “In addition to a wide range of purely railway subjects,” he remarked, “the Magazine is concerned with the national life and colour of New Zealand. With bright, illustrated articles on the rail-served tourist, health and sporting resorts and other interesting matter, the Magazine appeals to the whole of the public, and has an appreciable general-publicity value to the Dominion…‥
“Altogether, the Magazine, which serves an indispensable purpose in the successful working of the far-reaching railway system, is one of the cheapest forms of publicity available to the Department.”
Information for the discriminating modern public has to be prepared effectively. As publicity is the predominating factor in salesmanship, obviously the utmost care must be exercised in the planning, preparation and placing of the work to ensure that the message will not miss its objective. Hence the great importance attached by all successful trading and service ventures to their publicity organisation, and the constant search for better ways to tell their story and effect sales or attract, patronage.
Watching the Field.
At railway headquarters a constant watch is kept over the whole field of operations, and each of the many kinds of railway service is brought into prominence by publicity on due occasion so that the use of that particular service may be encouraged.
An analysis of actual expenditure by the Publicity Branch during the financial year ended 31st March, 1932, shows the following proportions in the three main groups under which advertising may be conveniently classified:—
|Percentage of Total.|
|Newspapers, magazines, etc.||70%|
|“Catch the eye” advertising (hoardings, signs, screens, etc.)||20%|
|Railway publications and miscellaneous||10%|
New Zealand Railways Publicity Branch
(Rly. Publicity Photos.)
Publicity Branch Staff. Centre: Mr. Geo. G. Stewart, Publicity Manager, and Editor, “New Zealand Railways Magazine; top; (left) Mr. I. K. Fleming, (right) Mr. F. A. J. Goodall; below: (left) Mr. E. J. Barrett, Sub-Editor, “New Zealand Railways Magazine,” and (right) Miss M. Denison, typist.
(Rly. Publicity Photos.)
(1) Rowsley electric double-sided plan printing machine; (2) Mr. D. Hooper, Head Plan Printer, operating the photostat camera (with mercury vapour lamps); (3) Mr. W. J. Reedy, Plan Printer, at work in the blue print trimming room; (4) Mr. L. Hinge, Head Photographer, in his workroom; (5) a corner of the storeroom; (6) Mr. R. A. Sanders, Asst. Photographer, using the vertical enlarger in the dark room.
The Cumulative Value of Publicity.
Whilst in the case of certain excursions and special types of service definite returns from advertising have been noted, much of the publicity for the railways must be of a general nature. The net returns from special excursions can be calculated with considerable accuracy, and comparisons can be made regarding the stimulating effect of different allocations of advertising upon such excursions, but what measure can be made of the profit to the Railways accruing, for instance, from the safety they provide? A record of 150 million passengers carried without fatality in six years is an excellent advertising point; it is a point of service that attracts much business to the railways; it must be advertised freely, but its monetary value cannot be calculated. Similarly, in the matter of comfort and convenience, the Railways have special points in their favour which must be explained adequately and emphasised to attract additional traffic. But the direct return from such advertising cannot be assessed. However, the general effect is there, and on this point one cannot do better than quote from an article contributed in 1930 to the “Newspaper News” by Mr. H. H. Sterling, then General Manager of Railways and now Chairman of the Government Railways Board. Mr. Sterling said:
“Probably no better illustration of the value of advertising in time of need can be afforded than the railways. We in New Zealand, believe we have a message regarding our product (transport) worth conveying to the people; and we have within recent years very substantially increased our advertising allocation. Has it been worth while? It may be difficult to assess the returns from advertising with mathematical precision, but I say with confidence that what we have spent on publicity work has been well worth while.”
Co-operation with the Press.
It is a function of the Publicity Branch to keep closely in touch with the newspapers and to be ready at any time to supply accurate information upon matters of railway interest that may be broached in the news or correspondence columns of the press. Members of the press appreciate the facility for checking up on communications reaching them and thus ensuring accuracy in the news they present to their readers. A friendly spirit of mutual confidence prevails, and it is only right to acknowledge here the personal help rendered by leading pressmen all over the Dominion in efforts to present fairly the railway case to the public.
Necessity v. Luxury.
In recent times the railway publicity battle has borne some resemblance to that being waged now in the Dominion generally namely, the battle between necessity and luxury. It has been a case of pressing constantly the fact that the Railways, as a necessary service, have been hindered in their effectiveness by patronage given to competitors who have provided a luxury service largely at the country's expense, and to present the facts so that the public could see the dangers of such competition and its ultimate effect upon them as taxpayers. The national value of the railways—their importance in the life of the community—is such that it has become a patriotic duty, as well as a matter of personal advantage, to give them all the support possible.
Capacity Awaiting Use.
The Railways have to supply a definite quantity of carrying capacity for passengers and freight, and any of this capacity which is not used is wasted. It is the “perishable” nature of this carrying capacity that must page 23 be constantly borne in mind by the Railways and the public. It is estimated that, at the present time, and on a general average, perhaps 75 per cent. of additional freight revenue and 90 per cent. of additional passenger revenue secured by the Railways is net revenue. It is considerations such as these which warrant every effort in publicity to induce the public to make greater and greater use of their own railways.
In stating the railway case detailed particulars have been set before the public in a series of special publications. Amongst these have been:—
“State Railways of New Zealand”—an illustrated review of the system.
“Picnics by Rail”—in illustrated booklets and folders.
“Cruising by Rail”—descriptive of the special railway cars available for hire to private parties.
“Romance of the Rail”—two books containing the story of the main lines in the North and South Islands.
“Freight by Rail”—telling of the kind of service and timetables supplied for goods traffic.
“Seeing New Zealand” by Rail”—two specially designed contour maps, in full colour, to illustrate the kind of country through which the railways run and the important arterial services they supply.
Besides these, numerous folders and booklets are constantly being prepared and sent out, either by direct mail or through special channels of distribution, to deal with places of interest to visitors, special events, etc.
Photography and Plan-Printing.
An important section of the Publicity Branch is the Photography and Plan Printing division, which supplies all the principal photographs for railway publicity purposes in the local press, the “Railways Magazine,” or for use overseas.
This division also does the helio and blue print reproduction of plans, etc., for the Railways and for a number of other Government Departments, besides any photostat printing and binding of miscellaneous papers, etc., which may be required by the Department. The speed with which the needs of various Branches can be met for helio, blue print, or photostat reproductions is an important feature of efficiency in this section of the Railways Publicity Branch.
“As Others See Us.”
The head of a publicity body is diffident about commending the efforts of his own organisation, but in fairness to the associated staff is is only right to mention the frequent expressions of appreciation of the work by competent critics outside the Department. They have declared that the Branch has achieved and maintained a high standard in its newspaper advertising, posters and various publications. This appreciation is also indicated by the strong persistent demand for the Branch's publications, photographs and blocks for utilisation in other publications in New Zealand and overseas.page 24