Pioneers of Propaganda

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Reflections of Edward Bernays, “The Father of Public Relations”

From Crisis of Trust Will Force PR to Rethink Its Methods, by Lev Janashvili in PRWeek — January 23, 2012)

“Despite the dramatic weakening in the bonds of trust, the PR industry and its clients still operate as if little has changed in the world since Bing Crosby died or since Edward Bernays published his seminal book: Propaganda. We still rely on methods and habits of mind that evolved in a world uncomplicated by post-modern anxieties.  We and our clients are facing a torrent of discontent, if not open contempt, and we are still trying to dam the flow with the veil of soulless corporate-speak and tricks of the trade that worked in a simpler time. This reflexive ritualism only deepens the crisis of trust.  It also obscures more sensible remedies consistent with the industry’s professed commitment to truth, candor, creativity and the craft of story-telling.”

From Is PR Good for the World, by Lev Janashvili in PRWeek — January 25, 2012

“Rethink the idea of “Influence”.  Building trust is qualitatively distinct from “influencing audiences”.  Rather than segmenting the world into constituencies passively receiving our influence, we should learn to see every constituent as a participant in a conversation.  That’s the lesson that politicians often preach but seldom practice.  PR should at least start preaching this idea.”

“Re-examine PR’s idols and ideals. Why is Edward Bernays still the towering intellectual influence on the practice of PR? Granted, Bernays earned his credentials as a founding father of modern PR. But his ideas evolved in a unique historical context that fed Bernays’ elitist worldview and his view of The People as the manipulable rabble memorably depicted in Gustave LeBon’s The Crowd.”

“Still, Bernays’ ideas were fit for their time. After all, it was much easier to manipulate a nation without Facebook accounts. It was easier to control messages in a society where most information flowed only one way — from writers to readers, from newspapers to subscribers, from Walter Cronkite to his viewers.”

“But since the publication of Propaganda in 1928, the world has changed in ways that warrant a thorough rethinking of how PR participates in the marketplace of ideas. Yet, no thinker has yet emerged who can stand on the shoulders of PR giants to see the industry’s new horizons, and to reconcile the practice of PR to the realities of a world transformed by cycles of boom and bust, by paradigm shifts in science and society, and by a decade overloaded with trust-crushing “Black Swan” events.”