A large part of the Strategic Communications major, and this profession in general, is truly understanding the difference between Public Relations and propaganda. It’s often hard to separate the two if we don’t really take the time to consider what makes them completely distinct from one another. Sure, both of them attempt to change the way people think and impact a certain audience. The main difference, though, is the validity and truth of a statement.
Public Relations takes the facts and frames them in a light that is positive for all parties involved; there is no twisting of words or information, and all of the information presented is valid and authentic.
Propaganda, on the other hand, is typically more negative in nature; it involves the twisting of information in order to better its own cause, with little regard for the audience involved. It concerned about its own personal betterment, oftentimes with little regard for accuracy.
Here is a great example of a Public Relations campaign by Procter & Gamble in 2015:
This is public relations because it is taking the message that girls are strong and powerful, and framing it in a way that relates to its audience well. It debunks stereotypes placed on women by society by using hard facts and genuine people to do this. It is empowering women and making an idea clear to the public while remaining ethical and sincere.z
Here are 4 examples of propaganda in a podcast from This American Life:
The most impactful one, in my opinion, is act 2, in which a children’s play titled “Eviction Blues” is explained. This play had the children perform and sing about the “techies” taking over the San Francisco area, and how many families were being forced to evacuate their homes. However, the play didn’t properly represent both sides, and portrayed hard working citizens in a negative light in order to better the opposing side’s message. This is propaganda because it is attempting to impact the audience’s way of thinking while spinning information to better a specific cause.