By: Hilliary Hallman and Jonathan Bailey
Carl Byoir began his PR career at age 14 when he became a reporter for his town’s newspaper, The Des Moines Register. A few years later, at age 17, he became the managing editor for the Waterloo Times Tribune. He then went on to attend the University of Iowa. While at the university, Byoir started his first unofficial PR campaign while trying to become managing editor of the school’s yearbook, The Hawkeye.
After school, Byoir joined the Hearst magazine empire as an advertising, promotions, and circulation apprentice and later became the circulation manager. Because of his success, he was sent to NYC to save Cosmopolitan magazine’s decreasing sales.
After working in NYC, Byoir received a call from George Creel to assist on the newly created World War I CPI. During his service on CPI, he wrote The League of Oppressed Nations. Byoir took on more political work when he was hired on to the Lithuanian National Council to help recognize the nation as a free, independent ally. He used print media, speeches, editorials, and sent telegrams to influential parties to gain support for Congress’s decision.
Then in 1921, Byoir started working at Nuxated Iron in without compensation to prove that he was fit for the job. He proved himself and became both Vice President and General Manager by the time he left in 1929.
After his time at Nuxated, Byoir moved down to Cuba to lease two small newspapers. He signed a five year $300,000 contract with the Cuban government to increase American tourism and to provide him with a government PR job. Tourism rose by more than 200% in the first year; however, he was often criticized by the US for his involvement with Cuba’s President Gerardo Machado.
Byoir was dissatisfied with Herbert Hoover’s attempts to salvage the economy during the Great Depression, so he started the “War Against Depression.” However, the campaign was a bust and only created about 1,000 jobs.
After the “War Against Depression” failure, Carl Byoir and Associates won the Henry Dohert, a shady businessman, account. Keith Morgan, who worked under FDR, called and requested that Dohert make a donation to the president’s foundation. Byoir saw this as an opportunity to rebuild his client’s reputation and took on all the work while taking no credit. He created FDR Birthday Balls as fundraising events for the foundation, and the parties gave Dohert’s reputation an overhaul. The FDR Birthday Balls still exist today, except under a new name: March of Dimes.
Freeport Sulphur Company was Byoir’s first big industrial account. It owned a large amount of sulfur deposits in Louisiana and Texas. The severance tax in Louisiana increased more than 200%, and he was hired to prevent a similar trend in Texas. Byoir’s executives chose the third-party technique, and the Texas legislators ended up voting against the tax.
Later, Truckers in Pennsylvania wanted to raise the weight limit on trucks to 60,000 pounds to expand their growing businesses. Upset with the competition, Eastern Railroads hired Byoir’s firm to mount a counter strike to keep truckers from stealing railroad clients. Byoir created unfavorable ads about truckers, and almost overnight the bill was vetoed. However, the railroad companies were not pleased with the outcome and fought back with a lawsuit that became a five year battle. Byoir was sure his company would prevail, but he died shortly before the court decision.
“Carl Byoir may not have moved mountains, but he definitely made a career of motivating people to do it for him.”