Propaganda v Public Relations

Student Series #3

Today we had a really interesting debate on the different side of PR, having one side advocating the industry, and the other dismantling it. Both had some justifiable points, and were able to successfully get their point across; but what I found I was most passionate about was discussing the difference between propaganda and PR.

While one person slated the industry for twisting words, and producing propaganda, using the example of WW2; I quickly stepped up to distinguish the difference.

While it is true that the propaganda was used to persuade and force young men to sign up for the war effort, by claiming through the art of posters that their wives or daughters would be killed, or they would be seen as cowardly men – after the war, this took a definite turn and can no longer be seen in connection with propaganda.

Within the 1930s the propaganda was a one sided conversation, dominated by the Government. But once the boom started within the industry and organisations wanted to trade overseas, they needed to establish their reputation and conduct relationships. This started the main beginning of Public Relations, despite the fact you can see elements throughout history, and it was finally being seen as a professional service requirement for organisations.

This defining moment also saw the change from a one sided conversation, to a two-sided one. This meant that instead of coercing consumers to change their beliefs, for example signing up to the war effort, they were instead leading them to a certain direction. Continuing with the Armed Forces theme, you can see the reputation they are building with their new angle. Their main focus is looking at the comadaree and friendships that are being built, including using and gaining new skills. It doesn’t forcibly get people to sign up for these forces, and threaten the consequences, but instead shows the positives and promotes the industry.

“Public Relations does not tell you what to think, it tells you what to think about.”

Public Relations:

“the professional maintenance of a favourable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.”

Propaganda:

“information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”

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5 thoughts on “Propaganda v Public Relations

  1. Hey! I really enjoyed reading your post. As a student studying public relations, I often find myself needing to explain my major. A lot of people assume it involves deception and manipulation. I loved the quote you provided, ““Public Relations does not tell you what to think, it tells you what to think about.” I think this is a great way to concisely differentiate between propaganda and public relations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree, it’s so hard trying to explain pr to people who don’t fully understand what it’s all about. It doesn’t help that it’s constantly adapting and changing either, but the main concept stays the same.

      Like

  2. This is a really interesting idea that you’ve proposed! Through all of the public relations classes that I have taken over the years, never once have I encountered a discussion about propaganda and how the line between the two may be blurry. Your title was intriguing to me for this reason, so great hook, then your explanation makes perfect sense- public relations is more about building relationships not necessarily convincing people of something specific. Also, I really love the quote you included at the end! “Public Relations does not tell you what to think, it tells you what to think about.” Thank you for sharing these interesting thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It was something that really interested me in public relations classes, and people who haven’t heard of pr get confused with.

      Like

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