A Look at Peta's Public Relations Programs

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Approximately thirty years ago, PETA forever changed the way that the people of the United States would look at animal welfare, and the rights of animals. Although this organization is notorious for its guerilla public relations techniques, it remains the strongest voice for animal rights in the entire world. Their use of public relations has been described in many different ways: intense, over the top, ridiculous, hilarious, militant, and genius. For this reason, one must delve deeper into PETA and its use of public relations. One can do this by identifying PETA and its history, what PETA is currently doing in regards to public relations, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of PETA’s numerous public relations campaigns, further explaining the reasoning behind PETA’s use of radical PR tactics, what comparable animal rights organizations are doing, and finally looking at how PETA can improve its public relations programs.

The first topic of discussion is PETA itself. The acronym “PETA” stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA is an international nonprofit charitable organization. Based in Norfolk, Virginia, the organization has affiliates all across the globe, including the United Kingdom, Germany, India, the Netherlands, and the Asia-Pacific region. The organization was founded in 1980, and has remained dedicated to establishing and defending the rights of all animals (PETA, 2009.) One of PETA’s mantras, as found on their primary website, is “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.”

Throughout its thirty years of existence, PETA has made some historic steps for animal rights. Their first major work was done in 1981, and was entitled “The Silver Spring Monkeys” case. When the case was successfully completed, PETA celebrated the United State’s first criminal conviction of an animal experimenter due to the cruelty of animals (PETA, 2009.) Other campaigns created by PETA have led to numerous reforms for animal rights. These reforms include: a permanent ban on testing cosmetics on animals, juice makers ended funding for animal testing, General Motors stopped using animals in crash tests, fast food chains improved animal welfare on farms, and many fashion companies stopped selling fur in their stores. PETA is even responsible for the first police raid of a factory farm. PETA has had considerable success in the ways on animal rights, and this can be credited to their public relations methodology (PETA, 2009.)

PETA uses a very unique public relations methodology. They not only use militant tactics, but also try to educate, as well as communicate with people and corporations around the world. The organization would not be as successful today if it did not incorporate a variety of tactics. The first tactic that will be discussed is PETA’s use of videos as shock advocacy. Shock advocacy can be described as showing the public materials (such as photos, videos, etc.) that are disturbing, and change the opposing corporation into an enemy. PETA uses shock advocacy by showing images of farm animals being horribly killed. The most famous of these films was entitled, “Meet Your Meat”. (something) Studies have proven shock advocacy to be very effective. One study done by J. Schudder and C. Mills tested the videos on a focus group. After the group watched “Meet Your Meat” they were all much more in favor of PETA. Although shock advocacy does work well, it can also turn off many people in the population, due to the fact that these images can cause guilt and anger from people who enjoy meat. Another tactic that PETA is known for is their ability to reinforce their messages through popular celebrity endorsements. PETA has produced three animal rights albums that include popular musical artists such as Good Charlotte, Indigo Girls, and Howard Jones. They have also sponsored and held several benefit concerts that had titles such as “Rock Against Fur” and “Fur is a Drag.”...
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