Strategic Political Communication: Rethinking Social Influence, Persuasion, and Propaganda

Article excerpt

Strategic Political Communication: Rethinking Social Influence, Persuasion, and Propaganda. Karen S. Johnson-Cartee and Gary A. Copeland. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. 241 pp. $65 hbk. $24.05 pbk.

If readers think this book is about how to develop and execute strategies of political communications for political actors or entities, they are going to be disappointed. The book touches only tangentially on the first part of the title and focuses far more on the second. It devotes substantial space to discussing the many classic theories and concepts in sociology, social psychology, and propaganda that are highly relevant to political communication research.

The first chapter defends the role that social marketers (broadly defined to include advertising executives, public relations practitioners, and lobbyists) play in our society, contending that their positive contribution to society should be recognized despite their often negative reputation. It is intriguing that the authors use the term social marketers to describe this group of communication practitioners because the term more commonly refers to the professionals charged with executing programs designed for the social good, such as public health or adult education.

The next two chapters introduce well the classic concepts in social psychology and social influence such as reference groups, groupthink, and social norms in chapter 2. In the following chapter, Leon Festinger's social comparison theory, George Simmel's web of group affiliations, the congruence model, systems theory, and network concepts are explained in detail.

Targeting the right audience is the focus of chapter 4, in which various concepts and know-how in advertising and marketing are introduced. The authors follow the traditional ways of dissecting the public using demographics and psychographics. More interesting is the explication of sophisticated marketing devices, such as PRIZM (Potential Rating Index for Zip Markets).

Another chapter is devoted to discussing media effect theories, with a focus on social networking and social influence, elaborating the concepts of opinion leader, two-step flow of information, and dependency models. …