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"Our public relations policy is based on attraction
rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal
anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films."
WITHOUT its legions of well-wishers, A.A. could never have
grown as it has. Throughout the world, immense and favorable
publicity of every description has been the principal means
of bringing alcoholics into our Fellowship. In A.A. offices,
clubs, and homes, telephones ring constantly. One voice
says, "I read a piece in the newspapers . . .";
another, "We heard a radio program . . ."; and
still another, "We saw a moving picture . . ."
or "We something about A.A. on television. . . ."
It is no exaggeration to say that half of A.A.'s membership
has been led to us through channels like these.
inquiring voices are not all alcoholics or their families.
Doctors read medical papers about Alcoholics Anonymous and
call for more information. Clergymen see articles in their
church journals and also make inquiries. Employers learn
that great corporations have set their approval upon us,
and wish to discover what can be done about alcoholism in
their own firms.
a great responsibility fell upon us to develop the best
possible public relations policy for Alcoholics Anonymous.
Through many painful experiences, we think we have arrived
at what that policy ought to be. It is the opposite in many
ways of usual promotional practice. We found that we had
to rely upon the principle of attraction rather than of
see how these two contrasting ideas--attraction and promotion--work
out. A political party wishes to win an election, so it
advertises the virtues of its leadership to draw votes.
A worthy charity wants to raise money; forthwith, its letterhead
shows the name of every distinguished person who support
can be obtained. Much of the political, economic, and religious
life of the world is dependent upon publicized leadership.
People who symbolize causes and ideas fill a deep human
need. We of A.A. do not question that. But we do have to
soberly face the fact that being in the public eye is hazardous,
especially for us. By temperament, nearly every one of us
had been an irrepressible promoter, and the prospect of
a society composed almost entirely of promoters was frightening.
Considering this explosive factor, we knew we had to exercise
way this restraint paid off was startling. It resulted in
more favorable publicity of Alcoholics Anonymous than could
possibly have been obtained through all the arts and abilities
of A.A.'s best press agents. Obviously, A.A. had to be publicized
somehow, so we resorted to the idea that it would be far
better to let our friends do this for us. Precisely that
has happened, to an unbelievable extent. Veteran newsmen,
trained doubters that they are, have gone all out to carry
A.A.'s message. To them, we are something more than the
source of good stories. On almost every news front, the
men and women of the press have attached themselves to us
the beginning, the press could not understand our refusal
of all personal publicity. They were genuinely baffled by
our insistence upon anonymity. Then they got the point.
Here was something rare in the world--a society which said
it wished to publicize its principles and its work, but
not its individual members. The press was delighted with
this attitude. Ever since, these friends have reported A.A.
with an enthusiasm which the most ardent members would find
hard to match.
was actually a time when the press of America thought the
anonymity of A.A. was better for us than some of our own
members did. At on point, about a hundred of our Society
were breaking anonymity at the public level. With perfectly
good intent, these folks declared that the principle of
anonymity was horse-an-buggy stuff, something appropriate
to A.A.'s pioneering days. They were sure that A.A. could
go faster and farther if it availed itself of modern publicity
methods. A.A., they pointed out, included many persons of
local, national, or international fame. Provided they were
willing--and many were--why shouldn't their membership be
publicized, thereby encouraging others to join us? These
were plausible arguments, but happily our friends of the
writing profession disagreed with them.
Foundation* wrote letters to practically every news outlet
in North America, setting forth our public relations policy
of attraction rather than promotion, and emphasizing personal
anonymity as A.A.'s greatest protection. Since that time,
editors and rewrite men have repeatedly deleted names and
pictures of members from A.A. copy; frequently, they have
reminded ambitious individuals of A.A.'s anonymity policy.
They have been sacrificed good stories to this end. The
force of their cooperation has certainly helped. Only a
few A.A. members are left who deliberately break anonymity
at the public level.
in brief, in the process by which A.A.'s Tradition Eleven
was constructed. To us, however, it represents far more
than a sound public relations policy. It is more than a
denial of self-seeking. This Tradition is a constant and
practical reminder that personal ambition has no place in
A.A. In it, each member becomes an active guardian of our
Fellowship. *In 1954, the name of the Alcoholic Foundation,
Inc., was changed to the General Service Board of Alcoholics
Anonymous, Inc., and the Foundation office is now the General
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