The mass amount of public relations toes the ethical line between persuasion and coercion, manipulation and propaganda. Think Public Relations (2014) support Perloff’s definition that the act of persuasion is “inducing a change in belief, attitude or behaviour in another”. Moreover, coercion is the act of forcibly applying persuasion. The key divider being that persuasion is a push, while coercion is a shove.
A good deal of what you see online is the manufacturing of PR (Beder, 2004) with the practice of PR becoming “synonymous” (Fawkes, 2007) with manipulation and the ethical complexities. Wilcox (2014) states that credibility can be easily lost if anything less than honesty is put forth. Rethinking Public Relations (Moloney, 2000) puts forth that reasoned persuasion is most beneficial in the eyes of the public. While we may personally feel that something is unethical, the lines become blurred when the ethical limitations do not align with our morals.
Mcnamara (2001) observed the noble work that persuasive PR can do; e.g. the Red Cross’ using PR to increase blood donations. Where the end result is for the greater good, there is an ethical acceptance of persuasive techniques. Charities rely on the need to stay in the public eye to maintain drive toward the donation spectrum (Ainsworth, 2008). A horde of bygone campaigns show that Red Cross boasts successful PR strategies. The backbone is there; motivation to give blood is high. However, Campaign Brief Australia (2016) noted actual donations are extremely low. Their media objectivity is to balance the scale. The combination of celebrities and pop culture icon ‘The Cookie Monster’ are intended, as outlined by Marcianiak (2009), to employ ‘star power’ to create buzz. Coupling this and the reward of a sugary treat, there is the element of persuasion on target publics as a tactic to push for blood donation.
Ainsworth, D 2008, ‘Big PR, small budget’, Third Sector, p. 34, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 May 2016.
Beder, S ‘Moulding and Manipulating the News, Controversies in Environmental Sociology, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2004, pp.204-220 Retrieved from: http://www.uow.edu.au/~sharonb/mediachap.html
Campaign Brief Australia. 2016. ‘Giving Blood Feels Good’ the message in latest integrated campaign for Australian Red Cross Blood Service via Cummins&Partners, Melbourne – Campaign Brief Australia . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.campaignbrief.com/2015/08/giving-blood-feels-good-the-me.html. [Accessed 08 May 2016].
Fawkes, J 2007, ‘Public relations models and persuasion ethics: a new approach’, vol. 11, no.4, pp. 313-331, Retrieved from: http://www.pracademy.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/pr-models-and-persuasion-Fawkes.pdf
Macnamara, J, 2001, ‘The Impact of PR on the Media’, Northern Territory News, pp.1-8, Retrieved from: http://www.pria.com.au/sitebuilder/resources/knowledge/files/2140/primpactmedia.pdf
Marciniak, D 2009, ‘Event planning intersection: Where brands meet celebrities. (cover story)’, Public Relations Tactics, vol. 16, no. 3, p. 14.
Moloney, K 2000, ‘Chapter 11: A beneficial PR’, Rethinking Public Relations, pp. 148-163.
Wilcox, Cameron, Reber and Shin (2014) Think Public Relations, Pearson Education Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, United States of America. Chapter 7, pp. 148