Week 6 – PR, Propaganda and Ethics

As i touched on in my week 5 entry, I am curious to see how industry experience develops one’s ethical perspective. In the week 6 lecture, one thing that interested me was the ethics of the Kony 2012 campaign. The ethical concerns related to social justice campaigns in general i find really interesting, as the issues have such an enormous emotional capacity, and even if the goal of the campaign is ethical, the communication can still be unethical. For a campaign with so much global visibility, the credibility of the source and transparency regarding the destination of donations is very lacking and i find that very concerning, especially given the propagandist nature of the flagship video.

It appears that the goodwill that comes from charity association can be capitalised on in questionable ways. Consider The Colour Run (http://thecolorrun.com/australia/) – Do their charity partner(s) actually recieve any of the $55 that participants pay? Is Swisse a corporate sponsor for a charity event, or is this a publicity stunt for Swisse that is trying to capitalise on the charity event market?

After doing some research, I find it ethically questionable that the $55 fee gets me registration and a t-shirt, with the profit margin going to Swisse, and the ‘charity partner’ just recieving awareness, as i was told by staff of The Colour Run.

So what have i learned? Swisse look selfish, and Invisible Children look like emotionally manipulative religious colonists. If you’re going to do charity/social justice do it right or you look like a dipstick.

Week 5 – Theory

So firstly, I’m not sure that I expected so many theories from PR. It was interesting to read about some of the core communication theories I learnt last semester through a PR lens. I found the breadth of theories quite overwhelming at first, and the interconnectedness sometimes confusing. Most of the theories seemed inherently common sense to me, and after I wrapped my head around the different categories and terms, it pretty much all fell into place. 


It has been interesting to apply theory to something that I am genuinely very interested in. I had never really thought about the PR aspect of politics.. Given PRs reputation as ‘spin doctoring’ I’m not surprised that the term is seldom used in this field. Political parties are organisations however, and for these particular organisations reputation is critical – the sole purpose – so it makes sense that PR theory and strategy would be embedded in the practice. 


Systems theories make a lot of sense to me. The focus on the structure of the entity and its capacity to receive, negotiate and evolve encapsulates a key lesson for me so far, which is also reflected in the ideal two-way symmetric model and excellence theory – that PR is not just about framing the practises of an organisation in a favourable way even if they may not be, but about absorbing the feedback from publics and using it to improved the organisation to be truly favourable. 


I find media effects theories and persuasion theories interesting from an ethical point of view. I feel as though the ethical boundaries of persuasive communication aren’t entirely clear, as understanding theories such as hierarchy of needs and social learning could enable exploitative communication. Perhaps as each practitioner gains awareness and experience in communication we develop our own ethical integrity and boundaries. 



Week 4 – Public Opinion

The lecture by Dr Pamela Schultz this week gave some professional context and expression to something I have been thinking about for some time, particularly in the web 2.0 environment. There is no mediation on things like ‘backpacker journalism’ and social media, and I have long been contemplating the effect and power of this opinion-sharing – not just on the issue at hand (for example, Gillard’s prime ministership) but for the larger social issue(s) (gender equality, women as leaders/intellectuals, in government). The power of our own words is a newer concept for me, which I have thought about before, but perhaps not as explicitly as Dr Schultz explained. As a female intending to be in management teams and positions of leadership I should be aware of my use of language about myself. This reminded me of a Tedx Talk by Jennifer Siebel Newsom on gender equality.

The concept of framing was also very relevant for me, and the news media this week have given me some practice in identifying how it is constructed, particularly the use of fear.

My contemplation on the topic of ‘public opinion’ since completing the readings has been dominated by politics and campaigns for the 2013 Federal Election in terms of determining the need and interests of constituents and developing a platform that is truly and democratically representative.

I found the discussion of how public opinion ‘crystallises’ around events, and how it is reactive rather than proactive, to be very interesting. An example that came to mind for me was the police brutality issue that arose from the viral video of the Melbourne Mardi Gras.

To be honest, I find the fluid and indefinable nature of public opinion quite challenging, and I’m getting the impression that industry experience is the only solution.

Week 3 – Public Relations in Society

Looking at the way PR functions in the three different sectors was interesting, seeing what functions translated across all three, and what functions were more sector specific. While the challenges of The NFP sector would be interesting (maintaining a favourable fundraising climate, accountability, establishing and embodying clear purpose), my interest is still primarily in the corporate social responsibility, crisis management, internal communication and lobbying of the private sector. The concept of the marketing mix was interesting, and led me to further curiosities as to where PR sits in relation to things like graphic design and HR.