The Final Straw

I think with anything you always want your firm to be seen in the best possible light, you always want your company to follow the CIPR Code of Conduct and be honest, truthful, respect customers/ employees. I personally feel if it’s for the good then there is nothing wrong with a dash of spin, sprinkle of propaganda, and a spoonful of persuasion! I think it’s inevitable to pull out all the stops in order to be the best and nothing but the best. Whether it means placing personal ethics or company ethics to the side then so be it.

The world of PR is forever changing; there is no clear definition to what it is. Hence the confusion of what PR is in today’s world. So yes I do feel that PR is a bit of all three- spin, propaganda, and persuasion. However I do feel that it is wrong to say PR is negative just because of the negative connotations that go with it. There is still Good PR if used correctly and involves two way communication.

What spin meant 30 years ago is not what it means now, what propaganda meant during the war times is not what it means now. Can we get a final conclusion as to whether spin, propaganda and persuasion are good or bad tools in PR. I don’t think we can. Everyone has different views about it all, some say PR is bad, negative and manipulative. Others say it’s good because you’re being honest and truthful and communicating with the public. I don’t think there is a good and bad about it, I feel that it’s important to use these tools for the good, something that will benefit both parties. For example when it comes to elections they can use spin or propaganda as long as what they say is true and they stand by what they say. I do have a problem with using these tools in a bad and negative way. Then that’s when I would say your ethics/ values should come to play.

Hope I’ve challenged your thoughts in the PR world…. till next time

Love. Love

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)

Corporate social responsibility, if very much linked in with PR and building reputation

Niall Fitzgerald
Former CEO, Unilever
“Corporate social responsibility is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is a nice thing to do or because people are forcing us to do it… because it is good for our business”
Dame Anita Roddick
Body Shop
“The business of business should not be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed”
Warren Buffett
Berkshire Hathaway
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”


In other words CSR is the doing good for the business, and to behave in an ethical manner to improve the quality of life and economic development.

Surely if you are doing something good for the business and producing an overall positive impact on the society then the company is being ethical right? In a way it is because both CSR and ethics are more concerned with honesty, trusts, and building reputation. However Ethics is more to do with what is right or wrong and CSR is more to do with the obligations of the company. Companies like BMW reduce their carbon emissions by 10% in the last 5 years, as they care about the environmental factors, Shell try to always meet your requirements, IBM state that they take the environment very seriously, Tyson Hunger Relief believe in ultimately changing world hunger, Boots support the health community by having a community investment programme that aims to support initiatives that deliver health promotion.

I don’t think that CSR has a lot to do with Spin, Persuasion or Propaganda, I think its more PR based and attempting to build the brand image and build relationships.

From PR to Spin to Propaganda to Persuasion back to PR

Very similar, but still different…


Propaganda is about:

  • influencing
  • manipulating
  • one sided
  • half truth
  • Misleading
  • brainwashing
  • diffusion
  • lying
  • propagandist


Persuasion is about:

  • Influencing
  • believe
  • sell
  • alluring
  • tempting
  • brainwashing


Spin is about:

  • brainwash
  • persuade
  • Crafty
  • Deceit
  • interpretation of information
  • sway public opinion
  • spin doctor

On your way to getting what you want?

As we previously looked at propaganda, it could be seen as the umbrella of persuasion. So what is persuasion in PR.?

If a PR practioner has bad intentions then it’s seen as propaganda, however if they have good intentions then it’s seen as persuasion. Persuasion can come from a friend trying to get you to give up drinking to the everyday adverts selling their products on T.V.

Persuasion has made PR more from being all about communication (propaganda/spin) to do with negotiation. Persuasion brings this idea of a win-win zone as both parties benefit from each other. “Miller, for example, regards persuasion and PR as ‘two peas in a pod’ in Botan and Hazelton 1989:46). Rather than seeing this as a criticism of PR, however, he sees the impulse to persuade as a natural part of the human condition” (Yeomans and Tench 2009:544). Persuasion is in us. Fact! but when is persuasion seen as ethical or unethical. Take for example the anti drinking smoking campaigns- these campaigns are designed to change your behavior and thoughts towards drinking and smoking, and because it’s for the benefit of the public to help their health I think that persuasion is ethical. However it has been said that PR practitioners feel that persuasion is unethical when an organisation deliberately lies, and twists the truth.

There are many debates on persuasion and whether it’s one way communication or two way communication or whether it’s ethical or not. My personal view on it? I think that persuasion is a one way street because your manipulating the other person to come to your side.

Little white lies…

We have talked about spin, let’s move on to Propaganda. Propaganda has negative connotations, mostly because it’s associated with Adolf Hitler and World War II. This has lead propaganda to have a bad name! Propaganda is about feeding you with information regardless of whether it’s good or bad. Some may say that Propaganda is another form of lying as Joseph Goebbels became Hitler’s propaganda minister in 1933, being the top propagandist at the time he formed the ‘Big Lie’. Psychoanalyst Walter Langer once said that people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one, and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner than later believe it. And that’s exactly what Goebbels did, he repeated a lie over and over again till it was believable and was accepted as truth. So clearly Propaganda puts ethics aside right? As propaganda will brainwash you.

Propaganda is some form of communication and Grunig created the Four Models of Public Relations (Fig 1.3)

Fig 1.3 

Grunig’s Four models of Public Relations

Model Name Type of Communication Model Characteristics
Press agentry/publicity model One-way communication Uses persuasion and manipulation to influence audience to behave as the organization desires
Public Information model One-way communication Uses press releases and other one-way communication techniques to distribute organizational information. Public relations practitioner is often referred to as the “journalist in residence.
One-way asymmetrical model One-way communication Uses persuasion and manipulation to influence audience to behave as the organization desires. Does not use research to find out how it public(s> feel about the organization.
Two-way symmetrical model Two-way communication Uses communication to negotiate with publics,resolve conflict, and promote mutual understanding and respect between the organization and its public(s).


From this model I think it’s safe to say that Propaganda is one way communication as it’s more to do with manipulation and strong persuasion, Take for example the KONY Campaign. This video was very much one- way communication as they used social media to persuade you to support the KONY cause, purchase the action Kit and also sign up to donate money every month for this cause. This campaign connected with people on an emotional level, hence the number of views it got over the internet (over 2 million). One would say it was a very direct and manipulative campaign. However others would say when ethics are involved it’s more two communication, i.e. the KONY campaign could be a case of negotiating with publics in order to support the cause. Propaganda seems more serious nowadays compared to how it was during the WWII times, and with social media and technology changing it makes it even more difficult to understand it all. And the issue of ethics in propaganda raises another story. As we have discussed in PR it’s all about honesty and telling the truth, so how then are you able to do propaganda when you have to follow ethics? Some say that lying is an offence, undoubtedly because once you lie you lose trust and once trust is lost you lose reputation. However its been said that telling the truth and nothing but the truth is even worse and has more consequences than just telling a little white lie…

Disingenuous! Deceptive! Manipulative!

Spin is considered as another form of propaganda. Edward Bernays has been called the ‘Father of Spin’. Spin is right in the middle of lying and telling the truth, and can be seen as being very biased. So realistically speaking spin is not lying it’s just manipulating a story for your own benefit. So surely cause you’re not lying it still doesn’t affect ethics right? The CIPR Codes of Conduct state that you should be honest and truthful, and Spin to be fair is just the cushioned version of lying, there is a part of spin that is dishonest. When it comes to spin there are some parts that are left out, only allowing room for what people need to know- only the important things need to be said. Take for example Politicians; they are very much linked in with Spin. Do you think that everything politicians say is true? Do you think they pick and choose what information they want you to hear? Could spin be the power to be deceptive?

Governments may prefer to talk about communication and information: spin implies that the information communicated is carefully selected and delivered in a way that is to the advantage of the sender of the message. Since so much is at stake, the methods used can be ruthless, and telling the truth may not be a priority.” (Morris, T and Goldsworthy, S: 2008; p154). From this why don’t we look at the elections are they part of spin? How much of what Nick Clegg or David Cameron say is the truth? I asked my flatmate this question and she simply said ‘ I don’t believe anything they say during the elections, It’s all about manipulating and persuading you to vote for them, so of course they will say the right things for you to say – yes I will vote for them. I think it’s a matter of them saying things they want you to hear and that is relevant for you” Do you agree with her? Personally I think she is right. I think when it comes to Politicians and what they say I find it very hard to believe what they say, in a way I read between the lines in order to find out the truth.

Take a look at this video:

Are these examples of political spin


Could spin be closely linked in with propaganda?


Truth Glorious Truth

“Speaking the truth is a lost art; it’s very rare that you’ll find someone willing to tell you the full story” Author: Unknown

It’s not easy telling the truth all the time, sometimes we slip into the ‘Little white lie’. I have been in situations at work whereby customers have asked me whether or not they should buy this shoe, that blouse, and as a sales assistant your role is to boost sales and get as many people buying from that shop. Let’s face it we all have been in situations where a sales assistant has caught you trying on a dress and she/he says ‘that looks, really nice on you’ but really you know full well it doesn’t suit you at all! Let’s be real for a minute, not everyone out there tells the truth.

Truth, trust, honesty are important elements…

Balancing the truth and the right kind of truth leads us to the Pillars of 5 ethics (Fig 1.2), this model is designed to help PR practitioners work in an ethical manner in order to increase reputation. Parsons (2004) says the “pillars provide PR practitioners with “a first pass at analyzing a situation to determine its ethical implications before moving on to the more difficult part of ethics: actually taking action that we can live with.”

  • Veracity- to tell the truth
  • Non- Maleficence- to do no harm
  • Beneficence- to do good
  • Confidentiality- respect privacy
  • Fairness- fair and socially responsible

We have established that the pillars are to help make decisions in an ethical manner, but really do PR practitioners actually follow this model? Its one thing to know a model, but it’s another thing to actually follow it.

Scenario: Suppose you are working in the kitchen, it’s so busy and manic. A bowl of washing powder has been placed on the counter; the Chef accidentally grabs it instead of salt and sprinkles it in the customers’ food. You being in the kitchen saw this happen, but it was too late to warn the chef. Hours later you hear that 20 people have been rushed to hospital with severe food poisoning others in intensive care. Are you going to A) put your ethics/ values first and tell the truth and be honest? Knowing if you do, the company is at risk of losing its reputation. This would link in with the veracity/beneficence sector of the 5 pillars because you are doing good and telling the truth. Or B) Care more about the firm, that your morals and ethics are put to the side in order for you to save the company and build its reputation and this would link in with the confidentiality sector, as you are not willing to give out any information regarding what happened?

Being in a position like that I would probably be honest and tell the truth because I think honesty is the best policy. However I like to think depending on how big the problem is I would put my values and morals first, and if it’s something not as bad I would probably tell  ‘a little white lie’ only because I don’t want to put the company at risk. Tricky one that is…What would you do? Put the business all on the line? Or your ethics/values first? 

Where there is truth there is trust and as they say trust takes years to build and seconds to crumble down. PR practitioners are more concerned about building a good relationship, and this is why trust/truth is important to them and they act in an ethical and professorial manner in order to gain reputation.


My Values My Ethics

My Values and My Ethics


I carried out a test to help me understand and realise my most important values, this study was introduced by C. Roberts, Fifth Discipline Fieldbook Carrying out this study I found out that there are a lot of things I value.

1. Achievement

2. Affection (Love and Caring)

3. Creativity

4. Fame

6. Friendships

7. Helping other people

8. Honesty/Truth

9. Loyalty

10. Sophistication

These values come from being with family, friends and living the university life. And some more than others are aspirational however most of the time I try to demonstrate my values to the people I’m surrounded with. After having to eliminate 9 values, the one value I appreciated the most was Loyalty, as Lawrence Peter once said “When you’re part of a team, you stand up for your teammates. Your loyalty is to them. You protect them through good and bad, because they’d do the same for you.”

When it comes to making decisions within a workplace values and ethics come to play because what you have been asked to do may not be what you think is the right thing to do, but because of the environment you are in you have to do it. This leads on to the Potters box by philosopher Ralph Porter (Fig1.1). This box helps makes ethical decisions easier when faced with them in a firm. The first section is identifying what the situation is that the firm has to deal with, the second section is understanding and putting values first i.e. honesty/truth/trust, the third section is defining what your principles are for example ‘I will speak the truth and nothing but the truth’ and section 4 is choosing loyalty and understanding who your loyalties lie for- public? Or self? And once all of these are identified a decision can be made.

I believe that when you are in the working world what is personal to you should be kept to yourself and focus more on the organisations values and ethics, because at the end of the day if we all got our personal views and ethics across then we wouldn’t get far when dealing with situations because everyone will have their own personal beliefs, morals, values and ethics. In the world of PR when dealing with a crisis in an organisation, i.e. Starbucks not paying their taxes, dealing with this PR stunt and explaining why they weren’t paying their taxes etc, personal values and ethics had to be held back in order to protect the organisation and focus on building the business up. It’s been said that Starbucks are voluntarily paying £20m to the UK taxman.

How true is this? Is this a form or persuasion to get Starbucks back on the map as one of the leading coffee shops?  I genuinely feel that they had to make that statement, whether it’s a form of persuasion I beg to differ. It’s more building the company’s image in an ethical manner.

Q: What are your values/ethics have you been in situations where your values and ethics have been tested?



Exploring Ethics, Values and PR

In our seminar we had to look at hard pressing PR campaigns such as abortion, animal testing and the right to die. We were either for or against these issues and we had to discuss what you would do if you worked for that company. Our task was animal testing. Now frankly I wouldn’t be for animal testing as much as I strongly dislike them. I feel that they to deserve the right to live in as much as humans. So if I was working as a PR practitioner and approve on animal testing I would probably put my values ethics and morals ahead, before I allow animal testing because I think it is cruel. It got me thinking what would you do if you had to write campaigns on abortion knowing that you don’t believe in abortion? What if you were asked to do animal testing, would you? Knowing that you think its cruelty to animals. Or maybe let’s not animal test and test on human i.e. pedophiles  criminals. Would you test on humans? Throughout this blog I will be revealing more on ethics and values, and the different scenarios you could encounter. I will be taking you on a PR journey exploring Persuasion, PR and Spin and do any of these reflect what PR is. And drawing my personal conclusions about it all…Is Propaganda/spin/persuasion good or bad? When do values and ethics play a big role? And how far will you go till your values and ethics are left aside, and all you care about is building the organisations reputation.

Let the Journey begin…

Is PR Persuasion? Propaganda? or Spin?

Is PR Persuasive? Propaganda? Or it’s just a bit of Spin? In order to answer that question we need to get the definition of all three.


“Persuasion is the study of attitudes and how to change them. Persuasion calls to mind images of Sales people and Manipulators” (Perloff R 2010; 4)


“It is doubtless that propaganda is material which is meant to persuade or change public opinion, and though it often varies in form and technique it always serves the same purpose. Propaganda is communication for the purpose of persuasion.” (thinkquest.2012)


“Spin has a slightly negative connotation from a PR standpoint because it implies “Image Fixing” (Mogel L 1993; 12)