By Alan Graner
Some people believe propaganda and public relations are the same thing because “they both lie.”
Sure, both public relations and propaganda seek to shape perceptions and influence public opinion. Both use mass media. Both are directed at specific audiences. The end result of both is to get people to take action (though those actions differ immensely).
The main difference?
Propaganda uses lies, half-truths, innuendo, smears, misinformation, one-sided arguments and inflammatory rhetoric to influence the public’s attitude toward a cause, ideal or, usually, a political agenda.
Public relations uses truth if, for no other reason, their claims can be checked. PR relies on logic, facts and sometimes emotions to spread information between an organization or individual and its publics—information to promote products, services and build good will for the organizations offering them.
Propaganda’s underlying philosophy is us against them. “They” are often denigrated as undesirables or simply “the enemy.” (We have freedom fighters; they have terrorists.)
Public relations’ underlying philosophy is building trust between an organization and its products and services with its targeted audiences for mutual benefit.
Propaganda relies on one-way communications. It seeks to eliminate dissent, and those who disagree may suddenly “disappear.”
Increasingly, public relations relies on two-way communications via social media and encourages different points of view so organizations can better service their clients and customers.
To sum up
Both techniques may employ “spin.”
If what they’re spinning is based on truth, it’s PR.
If not, it’s propaganda.
Agree? Disagree? I want your opinion.
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA marketing communications firm. For a public relations campaign that makes you stick out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at email@example.com. Or visit www.dsprel.com.