1. How do the historical foundations of public relations apply to current day news? Please share some examples.
Public relations as we know it today based on two models: Ivy Lee’s “honest broker,” which was founded under the belief that the general public is rational enough to identify facts, and Edward Bernays’ “master manipulator,” which was founded under the belief that that the public can be more easily influenced by emotions and celebrities, rather than facts.
Taking a look at broadcast news media, we can see that each network can be dichitomized into two categories akin to the founding public relations model. Commercial broadcasting (the “master manipulator”), the dominant form of broadcasting in the US, is supported by an audience. With viewership as commodity, each of these news networks competes with one another through various means in order to acquire more viewers. Most news networks utilize sensationalism, loaded language and audience participation, all of which can appeal to emotion. As a result, each news network reflects off their respective audiences by adjusting their vocabulary and tone to cater to their viewers and influence their emotions.
Public broadcasting (the “honest broker”) relies on government funding and it is founded under the principle that its content remain accessible to a universal audience and that the content has universal audience appeal. Reporters in public broadcasting must separate themselves from the story and remain emotionally neutral as they present the facts.
2. How might the role of PR fit within a larger marketing campaign?
Hot-button issues can inspire the most memorable advertisements. For example, with the advent of Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, Budweiser exploited the controversial topic of immigration for its Super Bowl LI commercial. Budweiser’s commercial told the story of the St. Louis-based beer company’s German-immigrant co-founders, including the xenophobia the founders faced in America. The commercial generated media coverage after it aired, which further increased the presence of Budweiser’s brand. From a marketing aspect, the commercial’s goal was to sell beer. Through PR, the commercial’s goal was to sell Budweiser’s reputation.
3. How do you think developments in social media are impacting the field of public relations?
Social media allows information to reach the masses faster than ever. In turn, businesses and institutions are able to passively track their audience’s responses the moment a campaign is launched or a statement is publicized. Through the use of hashtags, buzzwords, surveys and “currently trending” content, a PR specialist can determine what the public is discussing without having to actively engage with them. The effectiveness of online PR can be measured by engagement, impression, items, mentions and reach.