Strange bedfellows: Public relations and propaganda

PR exec Edward M. Bury offers some insight into the propaganda versus public relations debate.

PR exec Edward Bury offers some insight into the propaganda versus public relations debate

Bring up the use of propaganda as a communications tool, and the mind more than likely conjures up images of black and white newsreel clips or posters produced by the Nazis or Russians in the years before and after World War II. The messages delivered were unabashedly jingoistic and one-sided, offering no middle ground. For the sake of offering some balance, “good guys”–including the U.S. and its allies–produced their share of what can be defined only as propaganda through the Cold War period and perhaps beyond.

Shift the discussion to whether propaganda has a role in public relations, and things get fuzzy. Can what may be considered, or better yet, defined as propaganda have any place in public relations today?

This question surfaced following a blog posting regarding a national television news report of a 2007 video reportedly produced and distributed by Al Qaeda. The television reporter commented that the video was improved from an audio/visual standpoint versus others produced by Al Qaeda. An observation: The reporter reasoned that the terrorist group had “improved its public relations capabilities” due to the enhanced production values. (Note: The quoted part comes from my recollection of the TV report.)

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