PR is about reputation

Topics: Public relations, Propaganda, Edward Bernays Pages: 5 (2266 words) Published: November 6, 2014

PR is about reputation – ‘the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you’ (www.cipr.co.uk). How does this compare with Bernays’ ideas of PR as Propaganda and today’s Nudge and Persuasion theories? According to CIPR, Public Relations is about reputation, which refers to the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. In the first place, this essay will introduce Grunig and Hunt (1984)’s four models and five stages of development; and then, analyse and evaluate Bernays’ ideas of Public Relations as Propaganda and Nudge and Persuasion theories; at the end, compare these ideas and theories to CIPR’s definition of Public Relations. According to Grunig and Hunt (1984), Public Relations has four models which are press agentry/publicity model, public Information model, two-way asymmetric model and two-way symmetric model. The first three models belong to one-way communication, while the fourth models is a two-way communication. Except four models, Grunig and Hunt (1984) also suggested five stages of development which are: the public be fooled, the public be damned, public information, propaganda and persuasion and public understanding. Public Relations is historically rooted in propaganda. Propaganda as a powerful tool of Public Relations has been debated for decades after World War I. Edward Bernays (1892-1995) is widely regarded as the ‘founder of modern public relations’ (Moloney, 2006: 46). Bernays (1928: 37) studied the efforts of propaganda in wartime, and argued that Public Relations as propaganda is a way of ‘manipulation’. For Bernays (1928: 37), this conscious, intelligent and organised manipulation is ‘an important element in democratic society’, and ‘those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country’. Therefore, in Bernays’ opinion, Public Relations as propaganda is a press agentry/publicity model, which refers to using manipulation to influence publics’ behaviour to fulfil the desire of the organisation. The first large-scale usage of propaganda was during World War I. In that period, propaganda used by governments mainly focused on political purposes. For instance, the recruiting poster of United States from World War I using the image of Uncle Sam, the personification of the United States, to persuade young male to join U.S. military army. Those propaganda used by U.S. government was seen as a positive power to influence the publics. Nevertheless, propaganda became seen as a ‘pejorative concept’ after the Second World War (Tench and Yeomans, 2013: 197), when people saw the power of Nazi propaganda – ‘promote anti-Semitism and the horrific consequences of that message’. Thus, propaganda during the wartime has both positive and negative influence. However, propaganda today is part of our everyday lives, and the forms of propaganda become various. In modern century, Propaganda is not only used by government, but also by big business and organisation. The aims include promoting ideas, values, policies, business interests, etc., and the forms contain posters, films, campaign, etc. According to Pratkanis and Aronson (2001), we are in an age of propaganda. As Pratkanis and Aronson (2001: 7) point out: ‘Every day we are bombarded with one persuasive communication after another. These appeals persuade not through the give-and-take of argument and debate, but through the manipulation of symbols and of our most basic human emotions’. Therefore, propaganda today tend to be an imbalanced two-way asymmetric model, for it uses manipulation as well as persuasion to influence publics’ behaviour to achieve organisations’ aims. To evaluate Bernays’ idea of Publics Relations as propaganda, we should see both advantages and limitations of the idea. Imbalanced because the intended change in behaviour is only to the audience’s attitudes and behaviour Also described as persuasive communication

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Bibliography: Bernays, E. (1928) Propaganda, New York: Liveright.
Cutlip, S. et al (2000) Effective Public Relations, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Fawkes, J. (2006) ‘Can ethics save public relations from the charge of propaganda’, Ethical Space: Journal of the Institute of Communication Ethics, 3 (1): 32–42.
Grunig, J. E. and Hunt, T. (1984) Managing Public Relations, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Jefkins, F. (1994) Public Relations Techniques, 2nd edition, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
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Perloff, R. (2006) ‘Dynamics of Persuasion’, in Cameron, G. and Wilcox, D. (2006) Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, 8th edition, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Pratkanis, A. and Aronson, E. (2001) Age of Propaganda, New York: Freeman/Owl Books.
Tench, R. and Yeomans, L. (2013) Exploring Public Relations, 3rd edition, Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
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