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What Is The Difference Between Public Relations And Propaganda?

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Robin Burden answered
The difference between PR and Propaganda should be pretty clear cut, or at least that's what you might assume.

The truth, however, is not quite as simple.

The difference between PR and propaganda

Both public relations and propaganda have a common goal: Persuasion.

The main difference between the two comes down to ethics.

When I think about propaganda, the first thing that comes to mind is political propaganda or campaigns.

Hitler used propaganda to sway the opinion of the German people in his favor, and the US used propaganda to rally the world against communism.

Modern-day governments all use propaganda of some form or other to win elections, garner support, and justify their actions.

What makes PR any different from propaganda?
Propaganda is a tool that appeals to people's emotional sensibilities. It has the power to make them fear their enemy, and adore their leaders - but the main criticism levied at propaganda is that it's not always based on facts.

In fact, you could say that the distinguishing feature of propaganda (as opposed to PR) is that propaganda seeks to deliver, regardless of whether its aims are morally-correct.

The world of public relations likes to take a different approach. It sees its role as one of a 'middle man': The communicator between facts and the people who need to know them.

PR is certainly used to influence people's decisions, but it is meant to be informative - influencing a target audience through verifiable evidence.

This implies that PR operates on a higher ethical platform than propaganda, as influencing people through facts would seem to be a good thing.

However, this is not always the case, unfortunately. These days, truths can quickly turn to uncertainties, and facts can be stretched.

Because PR inhabits a world of corporations, sponsors, and profits, the incentive to mislead and misinform is pretty high.

You only need to take a look at the fact that New Labour's infamous 'spin doctor' Alastair Campbell now works for a PR firm as evidence that the worlds of PR and propaganda aren't that far apart at all.

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