Public Relations Issues: Persuasion
Coercion and persuasion may be associated with being similar actions, they are however very different. Persuasion is used to lead someone in the direction of what you believe, where as coercion is leading that person in the direction by way of threat. Persuasion is integral to communication and public relations for, “one cannot inform without the message receiver at least implicitly being persuaded that the topic is worthy of attention,” (Messina, 2007, p 30). In the public relations world, persuasion is often associated with propaganda, and therefore a topic avoided by PR professionals (Messina, 2007).
I think there is a certain way that persuasion can be use in public relations that would not be seen as questionable, however I don’t believe such a strategy is beyond the bounds of professional PR. I think there are many out there who would risk it all to get their name out in the stratosphere. After researching, I have found, what I would consider an ethical approach to persuasion in public relations, call the TARES test.
The TARES test includes:
a) Truthfulness of the message
b) Authenticity of the persuader
c) Respect for the audience
d) Equity of the persuasive appeal
I think an example of an ethical use of persuasion in PR would be to find out what the other person/public thinks about the situation. Explain to them your viewpoint, and then come to a conclusion that satisfies the both of you. For a particular PR campaign you need to garner the attention of world class celebrities. Your client believes this is a big stretch and thinks that the safest way to approach them is through social media. You are thinking of bigger and better ways to get their attention – like sending a package straight to their own publicist or team. Your client is worried this could cause some kind of unwanted commotion. You talk it over with your client and decide that the best course of action is to reach out to the celebrity on social media by letting them know that you’ve sent them a nice gift and would love their feedback. This way you are softly communicating with the celebrity in the hopes they will ‘shout out’ your client’s product. You have asked your client their viewpoint, told them yours, and have come to a happy median all through the ways of persuasion.
Messina, A. (2007). Public relations, the public interest and persuasion: An ethical approach. Journal of Communication Management, 11, 29-52. Doi: 10.1108/13632540710725978
Baker, S., Martinson, D. L. (2001). The TARES test: Five principles for ethical persuasion. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16,