December 9, 2009
1 Comment

PR as a weapon of conflict in the news

Weapons of Mass Communication poster from Imperial War Museum

When public relations (PR) is mentioned in the news media, have you noticed the aggressive headline or story contexts in which the PR expression occurs? I have, and since I started looking for especially military applications of the term, I’ve been amazed how PR is widely depicted as a weapon of conflict in the media. So, just for fun, I did Google news archival searches for the last 30 years and found a rising tide of the warlike presence of PR:

News, as a packaged media product, generally markets the story of conflict between different sides, and it seems as though contests between opposing forces must have winners and losers:

Even if it’s not one side versus another, PR often appears in the news as a shocking or destructive element:

In general, over the past several decades, public relations has experienced a much higher media profile and all the charts — which are an inexact but crude gauge — show generally similar trends. I hope this evidences a sign of increased professional regard for public relations, but sometimes it seems that PR in the media is seen as something to respect but often as much to be feared.

1 Comment
  1. I’ve actually got a section in my journalism blog called “PR Makes News” that sort of tracks this phenomenon. It encompasses stories where the PR tactics that led to the story are included in the coverage, or when the business of PR is the focus of a feature. It’s definitely more common than it used to be.

    Sean Dougherty

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