Student Name: Ge Bai
Student Number: 140254909
Module Code: COM 8065
Module Title: Theoretical Approaches to PR
The Assignment Title:
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? Submission Date:
According to CIPR (accessed in 2014), public relations is about reputation. This essay will focus on CIPR’s arguments and compare it with Bernays’ ideas and Nudge and persuasion theories. In the first place, this essay will introduce Grunig and Hunt (1984)’s four models; and then, analyse and evaluate Bernays’ ideas of public relations as propaganda and Nudge and persuasion theories; at the end, explore the similarities as well as differences among Bernays’ propaganda, Nudge and persuasion and CIPR’s ideas 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 model is a two-way communication. Public relations is historically rooted in propaganda. Propaganda as a powerful tool has been debated for decades after World War I. Edward Bernays (1928: 37) studies the efforts of propaganda in wartime, and argues 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, for it use manipulation to influence publics’ behaviour to fulfil the desire of the organisation. To evaluate Bernays’ ideas of publics relations as propaganda, we should see both advantages and limitations of the ideas. On the one hand, Bernays’ ideas are based on the analysis of wartime propaganda, thus, he considers that the manipulation of the audiences’ opinions is powerful and influential, and very necessary for our countries to promote a well functioning and developing society. The first large-scale usage of propaganda was during World War I. In that period, propaganda was mainly used by governments for political purposes. For instance, the recruiting poster of United States from World War I uses the image of Uncle Sam - the personification of the United States - to persuade young male to join U.S. military army. The propaganda used by U.S. government at that time was seen as a positive power to send positive ideology. On the other hand, Bernays’ ideas of public relations as propaganda have limitation. Firstly, except bringing positive message, propaganda is also used by governments to spread biased or misleading information to reach their political purpose. 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’. In this term, rather than telling the truth, propaganda may hide message and bring negative influence to the society. Secondly, propaganda today became part of our everyday lives, and the forms of propaganda became increasingly various. In the modern century, propaganda is not only used by governments, but also used by big business and dominant organisations to promote ideas, values, policies, etc. In addition, the forms of propaganda today contain posters, films, campaigns, etc. Propaganda is increasingly used in a positive way, for instance, social campaigns can raise social awareness, and health campaign can promote public health. Nevertheless, propaganda today is still not...
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Cutlip, S. et al (2000) Effective Public Relations, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
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