The PRSA goes on to state that the exercise of public relations is done with the goal of contributing to mutual understanding between groups and institutions, and that a public relations professional serves as a counselor and a mediator helping to translate private aims into reasonable, publicly acceptable policy and action.
To succeed in bringing institutional messages to the public successfully, public relations professionals can acquire an understanding of certain psychological theories in order to increase the effectiveness of their work.
Edward L. Bernays was considered the first public relations professional who was also recognition as a theorist. A nephew of Sigmund Freud, and often called the’ Father of Public Relations, ” many of Bernays’ ideas about public relations were drawn from Freud’s theories about the illogical motives that shape human behavior, motives that typically originate subconsciously.
Interesting, isn’t it?
Bernays saw public relations as an applied social science. As such, a public relations practitioner can draw from techniques in sociology, psychology, and similar disciplines to manage the thought and behavior of the public.
Public Relations Conundrum
Herd mentality, or mob mentality, describes how people are affected by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items. From a public relations perspective, crafting a marketing plan or image that tries to create ‘buzz ” around a product, mimics the impact of the herd mentality, as it prompts individuals to believe that a lot of their peers are also engaging in certain behaviors.
I’m talking about a blueprint, say, like this one that allows you to broaden your public relations field of fire, putting its primary focus where it belongs, on your unit’s key external stakeholder behaviors :’ People act on their own perception of the events before them. This leads to predictable behaviors about which something can be done. When we create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action the very people whose behaviors affect the united nations the most, the public relations mission is accomplished. ‘
Bernays tapped into the herd mentality psychological construct while working in the name of the tobacco industry. In 1929, Bernays arranged a publicity stunt designed to convert women to take up cigarette smoking. During the 1920s, it was considered unfeminine and inappropriate for women to smoke, especially women who were considered one of a higher social standing.
It was Bernays’ idea to get a group of high society women in New York City smoke cigarettes as they marched in the 1929 Easter Day Parade. Photographs of the spectacle were sent to newspapers, sending the message to women that other women engaged in smoking. Advertisers began to target female smokers, as more and more women jumped on the bandwagon of smoking.
Social Identity Theory explains how prejudicial attitudes can develop. When a person classifies themselves as a member of a group, that is known as an in-group. Any individuals a person considers as not fitting into their own group is categorized as an out-group member.
Prejudice can result from identification with an in-group, and negative attitudes towards the out-group. Prejudice is a negative feeling towards a certain individual based on their perceived group membership.
People can place themselves within various groups based on age, socioeconomic status, race, or other variables, and these categories help a person to determine their environment.
A public relations practitioner can counteract this theory by creating campaigns that inform an in-group audience about out-group individuals, encouraging increased identification and understanding. Public service announcements that promote tolerance and acceptance would fall into this category.
Public relations involves supervising and assessing public attitudes, and maintaining mutual relations and understanding between an organization and its public. The function of public relations is to improve lines of communication and to institute new ways of creating a two-way flow of public information and understanding.
Optimal Distinctiveness Theory is a social psychology theory which says that individuals work to strike a balance of integration and uniqueness within social groups and situations. When people feel similar to others, they seek out some way to be different.
When they feel different, they try to become more similar. The Optimal Distinctiveness Theory suggests that individuals are constantly making adjustments to maintain equilibrium between the necessity to be similar as well as the need to be different.
This is one theory that a public relations practitioner can be aware of in crafting a marketing or advertising campaign. It is human nature for individuals to want to differentiate themselves from a group, but simultaneously wish to retain a certain similarity with a group.
A public relations practitioner can create a campaign that speaks to these opposing motivations in a clever way, appealing to a person’s need to be different, perhaps my highlighting the increased attention a person could receive by using a particular product.
At the same time, a campaign can promote the fact that a person will be regarded as keeping with popular behavior, such as public relations messages designed to encourage people to donate to charity, along with everyone else in the community.
There are many psychological theories to choose from and explore. A public relations professional can also incorporate psychology classes into their educational program, or take psychology classes outside of a degree program in order to find out more about the field of psychology.
Add to all of that, public relations degree and training programs are seeking a more solid base by filling educational programs with professionals who’re credentialed and practiced.
In efforts to alter the quality and the substance of public relations education and vocational training, the Commission on Public Relations Education completed a report in 2006, The Professional Bond, Public Relations Education for the 21st Century. The research gathered for the present report will help shape the future of public relations education.
For the graduate level, educational needs include public relations law, ethics, applications, research, and management.
Doing so can allow a public relations professional to carve out a niche for themselves in the industry, given that they’ll possess specialized knowledge in addition to their public relations training.