The power of persuasion
In an attempt to legitimise public relations as a management function scholars…. Have labeled persuasion as an unethical practice within public relations. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Persuasion is a key point of communication and plays a fundamental role in our everyday life. Be it at work, in social surrounding or even between ourselves, we are continuously persuading ideas and information, is not only used to convey information within or beyond an organisation, but also seeks to influence people. In this essay I will cover why I believe persuasion is not an unethical practice within PR (public relations) and why PR practitioners must follow strict codes of ethics to assure their organisation is not scrutinised.
Every organisation has to follow a code of ethics and the same goes for Public Relation firms. Academic scholars have noted that the term “persuasion” is often avoided in debates with PR professionals most likely because of the link it has with propaganda. Whereas other scholars argue that persuasion and PR are “two peas in a pod” and “essential function of contemporary public relations” (Smith B., 2008, p. 4)
It is well known that PR has been arguably recognised as the “spin doctors” for years in they way they persuade the public, which has brought a lot of negativity, so much so that many people actually perceive it to be full of propaganda, which in fact they are very different. However where does it draw the line when ethics are involved?
PR is described as the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organisation and the publics on whom its success or failure depends (T. Watson, 2007, p. 5), this is done by evaluating the publics attitudes, identifies policies and procedures of an individual or an organisations with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.
‘Persuasion’ I feel is a strong word; it is defined as methods used to influence feelings, increase awareness and impact actions and generally alters peoples beliefs, which influence brand attitude, which influences purchase intentions. Persuasion is important in communication and PR as it is an inherent part of social interaction and is something people do everywhere (Smith, 2013, p. 173).
PR professionals over the years have grasped the talent of persuasion and can use persuasion to their advantages. So how do PR professionals become so brilliant at persuading the public opinion? The three methods of persuasive communication that PR professionals turn to when communicating with the public is Audience analysis, Self-Interest and Source Credibility (Morris, 2008, p. 49). In order for persuasion to work affectively its important to understand the process of communications to send messages that will reach their target audiences.
Propaganda and persuasion are both tools that challenge to have power in the public’s thinking, and it’s accurate that cult leaders and dictators are among the best persuaders because they use words and slogans to play on peoples emotions. But there are differences amongst persuasion, propaganda and manipulation.
Manipulation is a behavior that influences someone in a clever or dishonest way, Propaganda is practiced by large groups such as cults, governments and terrorist organisations and it is spread through the mass media, and often has immoral motives. Whereas persuasion tends to be more personal, it can be practiced in face-to-face encounter, not always to a mass audience. Persuasion allows the audience to respond and use its own persuasive policies to influence the communicator (Johnson & Zawawai, 2009, p. 424).
When it comes to persuasion, PR firms are not the only companies that use persuasion, several companies are in the persuasion business such as advertising agencies, marketing conglomerates, lobbying groups, social activists, speech writers,...
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