Is Propaganda the Dark Side of PR?

A new exhibition has opened at the British Library.  Titled ‘Propaganda: Power and Persuasion’.  Reading and listening to comment on the radio it does raise the question: is there any difference between propaganda and public relations?

The The Chartered Institute of Public Relations, UK offers this on their web site: ‘Public relations (PR) is the way organisations, companies and individuals communicate with the public and media. A PR specialist communicates with the target audience directly or indirectly through media with an aim to create and maintain a positive image and create a strong relationship with the audience.’

From this it appears that the purpose of PR is also to persuade by creating and maintaining a positive image with a target audience.

The Oxford Dictionary provides: ‘Propaganda: information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.’

It is fair to say that the majority of PR practitioners are not engaged by their clients or employers to mislead.  However, biased and promoting a particular point view – the message of the paymaster – is usual.

Having read the preview for the exhibition in the Guardian, which runs until September, it would seem that there are plenty of blurred dividing lines to be explored.

Adrian Maguire, Partner, Ainsworth Maguire Public Relations

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