Do you know what the biggest power is on Earth? No, it’s not money and no it’s not politics.
It’s Public Relations.
Of course, I’m fairly biased on the topic, being the President of the Hungarian PR Association, but the power of PR is one of my favourite subjects related to the profession. Good communicators – for now you are permitted to call them spin doctors – can manipulate whoever they want. They can create kings and they can throw them off the throne. This has always been like that, even before the official birth of Public Relations.
Starting our historical trip in Rome, think about the infamous emperor, Nero. We all know that he was a maniac who burned the city to get inspiration for his poetry. But is this really true? Or did someone change the story to make it fit their own agenda?
Or let’s take the Middle Ages. People believed what they were told by their rulers and by the church, no questions asked. Ever. They would even burn their family members and friends if they were told the women were witches. Was there any proof that any of these poor victims did witchcraft? No and it was not needed, that fact that someone proclaimed something to be true led to cruel murder.
Jumping to the XX. century, why did so many Americans support the Vietnam War in the beginning? Because they were made believe that they were liberating a nation who needed their help. Why did they believe this? Because they were told so.
It would be logical to say that this kind of manipulation could only exist before the rise of social media and today people cannot be led by the nose. After all we all have Google and Facebook to check the facts? Right?
Right. Then how in the world did Brexit happen? When even those who fought for the UK to exit the EU admitted later that they lied? By that time, it was too late, 15 million people believed them. Did they check the facts? Probably no. Did they listen to different opinions? Probably no. Were they any different from the people who burned witches in the Middle Ages?
People will believe whatever they are told if the message is clear and they hear it often enough. People will start wars, hate their neighbours and hurt foreigners if they are manipulated. And who do you think will be responsible for all this? Those who made them believe, those who made the messages and those who acted as channels for communication. Politicians, journalists, opinion-leaders and mostly us: professionals of PR. This is a big responsibility. Choose well!