Tuesday, 26 January 2010


In my first blog, I gave a brief description of what propaganda and PR means and how some of the authors have defined them. This blog focuses on the emergence of Propaganda and PR and goes back in to the history to find out the reason behind the negative perception of propaganda and PR.

Ralph Tench and Liz Yeomans (2009) mention that the word propaganda has its origins in the seventeenth century Catholic Church where it meant to ‘propagate the faith’ and it played a major part in recruiting support for the First World War, when the key Committee on Public Information (CPI) was established in the USA. I was quite surprised to learn that propaganda was a neutral term at the start of the twentieth century when theorists such as Bernays (1923), Lippman (1925) and Laswell (1934) saw no problem with trying to organise the responses of mass audiences. So, the question is how and why did the image of propaganda change from neutral to negative?

Tench and Yeomans highlight that propaganda was not seen as a negative concept until after the Second World War, when everyone saw the power of Nazi propaganda, especially their use of film, to promote anti-Semitism and the horrific consequences of that message. It was then that communicators distanced themselves from the concept of propaganda.

All this makes me wonder if Nazi propaganda would not have been successful or it would not have been a part of the history, would it (propaganda) be still relevant in the current scenario? Communication professionals would have been running propaganda agencies instead of PR agencies? Imagine job profiles like Propaganda consultants or Head of Propaganda Department!

In my opinion, this would not have happened. The reason could have been the intellectual progression of our society. Sooner or later the masses would have realised the real intentions behind the messages targeted towards them in the form of propaganda due to the intellectual growth and stimulation and hence, public relations as a profession would have felt a great need to evolve itself. Thus, scholars and practitioners would have thought of giving public relations a new identity which would have portrayed a more holistic and ethical image of the industry. For example, Moloney (2006) in his book Rethinking Public Relations mentions that modern PR messages are subject to greater scrutiny in an increasing pluralism of interests and their propagandistic intentions (where known) meet with greater challenge in the media and in politics from competing interests. As a consequence, a better educated, more media-literate public may be less compliant than their parents' and grandparents' generations.

(Image Source: http://weburbanist.com/2009/06/09/pretty-persuasion-pumped-up-propaganda-of-the-past/)

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