As Nietzsche struggled to promote in the XIX century, to understand the true nature of a given phenomenon you need to go back to its origins.
Thus, if we want to understand what a PR counsel's role should be, I am compelled to recall the studies of the first PR pioneer in human history: Edward Bernays.
In his most famous studies Crystallizing Public Opinion and Propaganda, he spent most of his attention not on the overall role of PR but on the statutory role of the PR counsel.
To understand his thoughts we need to clarify that the studies mentioned above were released in 1923 and 1928 respectively, more or less 30 years after the publication of The Crowd by Gustave Le Bon, the first study on the so-called popular mind and the real beginning of a new subject of studies: social psychology.
We were just at the beginning of the rise of mass media that, at the time, were considered magazines, newspapers, and radio.
Nowadays, apart from the huge amount of professionals who operate in the market with complete awareness of what their real job is, in the PR industry there is the trend to generally recognise the duty of the PR counsel as being just an intermediary between those who have the need for coverage and those who can give them the coverage they need, the media.
However, this is a distortion of the real and original role of the PR counsel, and it is the direct result of a topic that during the years has become more and more inflated.
When everyone is talking about something that has become public domain, that something soon becomes common sense, which, for a reasonable professional, is to be considered the enemy of all enemies.
There is nothing farther from the truth than an opinion with no fundamentals.
What is funny is that the less someone understands a topic, the more they seem to have an opinion on it: you can observe this regarding political, ethical, or social issues; and unfortunately, even the professional world has plenty of gurus who are spreading around false expertise or rearranging ideas of others and promoting them as if they were theirs without quoting the source.
They are usually spin doctors with an opinion about everything.
Thus forgetting one of the cornerstone rules of branding:
WHO IS EVERYWHERE IS NOWHERE.
Professionally speaking, avoiding any approximation on the real role of the PR counsel is paramount to making sure that the average PR customer, with little knowledge concerning branding through PR, might have the chance to better select the best partner to be in business with in the medium-long term.
Who is the real PR COUNSEL, then?
According to Edward Bernays,
The public relations counsel, then, is the agent who, working with modern media of communication and the group of formations of society, brings an idea to the consciousness of the public. But he is a great deal more than that. He is concerned with courses of action, doctrines, systems and opinions, and the securing of public support for them.1
Thus, considering the premise, his role is creating pictures in the mind2 of an audience, which can change our mental pictures of the world3.
How can the PR counsel create mental pictures in the audience he is targeting?
Edward Bernays states that a real PR counsel is characterised by two attributes that refer to a specific psychological attitude and a set of well defined skills:
What does it mean to be a student of the public mind using the contemporary marketing terminology?
Basically, it means that you must scientifically know your target, how it thinks, why it thinks what it thinks, etc…
Indeed, using Edward Bernays words:
“The mental equipment of the average individual consists of a mass of judgments on most of // the subjects which touch his daily physical or mental life. These judgments are the tools of his daily being and yet they are his judgments, not on a basis of research and logical deduction, but for the most part dogmatic expressions accepted on the authority of his parents, his teachers, his church, and of his social, his economic and other leaders.”5
Thus, being aware of
“The tendency the group has to standardize the habits of individuals and to assign logical reasons for them is an important factor in the work of the public relations counsel”6
“after examination of the sources of established beliefs, must either discredit the old authorities or create new authorities by making articulate a mass opinion against the old belief or in favour of the new.”7
You may ask:
What kind of authorities are you talking about if my company produces orange juice?
Unless you created a particular niche, in any market niche there is a well established authority who is making more profits than anyone else because its name is attached to that particular category.
It’s incredible how Edward Bernays indirectly discovered what Al Ries, the most renowned brand expert on the planet, figured out dozens of years later.
To eradicate old authorities and position yourself as a new one, an entrepreneur must rely on a PR counsel which will broadcast his message through different channels.
Let’s use Al and Laura Ries's words in The Origin of Brands:
“When a brand can make the news, it has a chance to generate publicity. And the best way to make news is simple. Announce a new category and not just a new product. The news media wants to talk about what’s new, what’s first, and what’s hot.”8
Thus, using always Ries's categories, the scientific work of the PR counsel has two main aims:
“People want to buy what is conventional. In other words, people want to buy what other people are buying. In general, they don’t want to be seen as unconventional.”9
This gives us the chance to reaffirm my definition of PR professional (or counsel):
A PR professional is a brand expert who can get you coverage where you need to be when you need to be there.
A PR professional is someone whose biggest concern is to help you scale in a slow build-up process of media coverage, and he will act in this way:
These three steps above clearly demonstrate why a PR consultancy firm should be as specialised as possible.
They need to master your market in terms of both knowing the players and knowing the groups and subgroups that represents the target of the niche you are referring to. PR is your hidden weapon, the key for the gate of your gold mine of profit.
Don’t mess up with PR.
Most importantly, to conclude with a quote by Nietzsche, do not let the wrong PR counsel shout up your dreams forever, while on your grave the same PR counsel will chant the following rhyme:
«Gott ist tot! Gott bleibt tot! Und wir haben ihn getötet!»
(«God is dead! God is dead! And we have killed him!»)
1Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: Horace Liveright, 1928), p. 38.
2Ibid., p. 25
3Ibid., p. 26
4Edward Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1923), p.53
5Ibid., p. 61-62
6Ibid., p. 105
7Ibid., p. 68
8Al Ries and Laura Ries, The Origin of Brands (New York: HarperBusiness, 2004), p. 274
9Ibid., p. 272
You may like him or dislike him as a politician, but I am about to tell you that Donald Trump is by far not only among the best public speakers on this planet but also without any doubt an outstanding marketer who has learned from his bankruptcies the major lesson on why you should never (NEVER) guess when it comes to branding; if you do guess, you will certainly do it at your own expense.
Please read carefully and do not allow your political lens to undermine my attempt to show you how the president of the United States of America is a perfect case study of the fundamentals on which your business should be built.
Naming: Donald Trump
Visual Hammer: Donald Trump
Verbal Nail: Donald Trump has positioned himself as the epitome of the American dream. He is the guy that turned a $1 million loan into a $10 billion empire in spite of five bankruptcies.
Battle Cry: Make America Great Again
Category: FIRST entrepreneur to run as president of the United States of America with no previous roles in any public or governmental position.
Money raised by Donald Trump: $ 646.8 million
Money raised by by Hillary Clinton: $ 1.191 billion
LET’S START THE ANALYSIS
Although the naming, the visual hammer, and the verbal nail do not need any further explanation, the battle cry could be a perfect element for the beginning of our analysis.
Make America Great Again Vs. Stronger Together
Make America Great Again has two peculiarities as a positioning message:
Stronger Together isn’t even close to being a positioning statement.
I will explain why.
Stronger Together can’t be envisioned.
Try to imagine Stronger Together.
What do you see?
Now, on the other hand, try to envision Make America Great Again.
You see…You start envisioning a prosperous past when being middle class was fine and you didn’t worry about losing your job, when you could have your nice house to raise your children with no concerns about paying the mortgage.
It’s all in the American storytelling that Hollywood has exported all around the world.
The statement Make America Great Again means:
“Do you remember those wonderful times when everyone could make their dreams come true with a bit of hard work and going the extra mile? I am bringing them back.”
Donald Trump was the first entrepreneur to run as a nominee for the White House with no previous involvement in public service.
What does this mean practically?
He got massive attention from the media.
He was first in a new category.
He disrupted the status quo.
Donald Trump went even further: he showed the world that there was a way to control the media instead of having the media manage the outcome of your reputation.
I will move a step backward to better explain.
How did he win the competition among the major nominees of the Republican Party?
How did he disqualify Marco Rubio?
He gave him the nickname "Little Rubio."
How did he disqualify Jeb Bush?
He made him the "Low Energy Guy."
Without being too rude, he made them look like funny caricatures of themselves.
How did he undermine Hillary Clinton's credibility?
He gave her the nickname of "Crooked Hillary."
Here we go…
How did he control his target audience's perception of the media?
He called them "Fake Media."
What was the effect of this?
He used his Twitter account as a press office, the only reliable press office in the US.
However, he was very happy to attend any interview on radio or TV.
In that case, he was not only spreading his message but he was doing so by symbolically showing his target audience that he wasn’t afraid of facing them, because his credibility was bigger than their lies.
But Donald Trump, who is a mastodontic marketer, went even beyond any imaginable expectations.
He started to use controversies that appealed to “the forgotten who will be forgotten no longer”:
However, he did it extremely intelligently.
Indeed, he not only had all the media talking about him and his political campaign, but while the media and the Democrats started to demonise him as an old-fashioned racist and misogynist psychopath, he used the strategy of polarisation to make his positions clearer:
They are all synthesized in the speech he made two days before the election at The Economic Club of New York:
"This is what our new future will look like.
I am going to lower your taxes very, very substantially.
I am going to get rid of massive amounts of unnecessary regulations.
I am going to unleash American energy.
I am going to repeal and replace Obamacare.
I am going to appoint justices of the Supreme Court who will follow The Constitution.
I am going to rebuild our depleted military and take care of our vets who are treated so badly.
I am going to save your Second Amendment, which is under siege.
I am going to stop illegal immigration and drugs from pouring into our country and totally poisoning our youth and others.
And yes. We will build the wall.
And I am going to renegotiate our disastrous trade deals, especially NAFTA, and we will only make great trade deals that will put the American worker first and put the American worker back to work.
We will rebuild our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our highways, our airports, schools, hospitals. We will rebuild everything.
American cars will travel the roads.
American planes will soar the skies.
And American ships will patrol the seas.
American steel will send new skyscrapers into the clouds.
American hands will rebuild this nation.
American workers will be hired to do the job.
Jobs will return. Incomes will rise.
New factories will come rushing back to our shores.
We will make America wealthy again.
We will make America strong again.
And we will Make America Great Again.”
This is a list of 24 statements.
Do you remember any one statement coming from Hillary?
As a matter of fact, Donald Trump got much more media coverage than Hillary Clinton because of
And he did so with almost half of the marketing budget of his opponent.
This teaches us two very important principles you can implement right now in your business:
This article was published on myMedium.com profile