Rethinking Public Relations: PR Propaganda and Democracy

Rethinking Public Relations: PR Propaganda and Democracy

Rethinking Public Relations: PR Propaganda and Democracy

Rethinking Public Relations: PR Propaganda and Democracy

Synopsis

All PR, whether for charities or arms manufacturers, is weak propaganda. Though it has its undeniable benefits (it grabs attention and helps circulate more information), it also has costs (such as selective messaging). This extensively revised edition of a classic text fully investigates PR, updating and expanding earlier arguments and building upon the successful first edition with new thoughts, data and evidence.

Thought-provoking and stimulating, Rethinking Public Relations 2nd Edition challenges conventional PR wisdom. It develops the accepted thinking on the most important question facing PR - its relationship with democracy - and finds a balance of advantages and disadvantages which leave a residue of concern. It tackles topical issues such as:

  • PR as a form of propaganda which flourishes in a democracy
  • the connections between PR and journalism
  • the media, promotions culture and persuasion.

Designed to appeal to final year undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers studying public relations, media and communications studies, this book explores the most important relationship PR has - the connection with democracy - and asks what benefits or costs it brings to politics, markets and the media.

Excerpt

Public relations pours a Niagara of persuasive attitudes, words, visuals and events over liberal democracies such as the UK. This great flood of promotional messaging attracts many critics, and a low reputation for PR itself. But it is futile to lament the pervasiveness of public relations, for it is not going to disappear from the political economy or civil society. Rather, it will increase because it is an expression of the powerful, promotional culture of these societies.

Rethinking PR 2: PR Propaganda and Democracy (2006) is the sequel to Rethinking PR: The Spin and the Substance (2000), building on it with new thoughts, data and evidence. It develops thinking on the most important question facing PR – its relationship with democracy – and finds a balance of advantages and disadvantages that leaves a residue of concern. The text sustains the view that PR is weak propaganda and argues that the most effective way to counter its negative effects is for all organisations and groups to have an effective PR ‘voice’ when they want to speak publicly. But these ‘voices’ have to be scrutinised in a PR-saturated society by a more independent and competitive media, and by PR-wary citizens and consumers.

Breaking out from the current Grunigian paradigm of PR thinking, Rethinking PR 2 argues that, empirically, public relations is not the search for communicative symmetries, but instead the search for communicative advantages that strengthens the interests of those it services. In the light of this, the book develops a normative theory of PR practice, namely that it should happen in a state of communicative equality. It argues for public and private subsidies to resource-poor, marginalised groups, and to technical and social innovators in order to give them the equality of a threshold level of PR ‘voice’.

The effects of today’s PR practice are analysed in markets, politics and the media. Positive effects are citizens and consumers put in contact with politics and markets by attention-getting, persuasive, popular messages in words, visuals and events, often delivered via the media. PR ‘voice’ also helps put new issues, which might otherwise never be heard, on to the public agenda. These benefits, however, are matched by the negative effects of one-sided, persuasive messages of selected facts and emotional appeals . . .

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