We all want to see ourselves as somewhat ‘superheroes’ in whatever profession we find ourselves in. Something which we can be proud of when some asks the question, what is it you do for a living? Some are doctors, some are nurses, firemen and women, others, well others are PR practitioners.
What is a PR practitioner’s super power I hear you ask? The power of persuasion.
Every day we are being exposed to thousands of messages, all persuading us to act or do something a certain way! It can be done through a restaurant’s drool-worthy Instagram of the food or the day or a popular influencer showing off an upcoming collection from a brand – this doesn’t seem too frightening, right? Right!
So why does this word leave such a foul taste in a PR practitioner’s mouth? Why do some feel it veers a little too close to propaganda? PR is all about persuasion! It’s not a dirty word, it’s not a word that should be whispered in the dead of night in a dark lit alley. Instead of wearing the art of persuasion like a badge of honour, we shy away from it, we purposely leave it out of definitions of the industry.
All PR practitioners don’t use their powers for evil, this is a common myth amongst publics and journalist who sometimes forget about the positive effect we can have in society through the power of persuasion.
Take a look at these next examples to highlight how life changing working in the PR industry can be!
Turning ‘left over women to power women’
The social expectation of China, is to marry young. Anyone over the age of 25 and who isn’t yet married is referred to as ‘Sheng Nu’ which translates to, ‘left over woman.’ In Shanghai, parents will pay to post ads and find matches for their children at the Marriage Market. The ads will list weight, height, income and a description of either their son or daughter’s personality. The children being advertised may not even know their ad is being listed.
A beauty brand in China, SK-II released a video in 2016 which promoted a woman’s right to exercise her freedom and to choose when she gets married and more importantly, who she gets married to. As part of this campaign, women who chose to defy their parents’ wishes and social pressure, printed images of themselves throughout the Marriage Market and with the tag lines delivering messages to their parents. One was, “I don’t want to get married for the sake of marriage. I won’t live happily that way.”
The campaign was designed to persuade and change the Chinese traditional way of thinking, not to marry for the sake of being married before becoming a ‘leftover woman,’ but to be proud of their daughters maybe unconventional, yet passionate views on marriage. See the campaign in action:
Like my addiction
This health campaign captured the world’s attention and inspired PR practitioners alike. Although a tad deceitful, it was all in good faith.
The Instagram account of Louise Delage documented a young girl’s flashy, jet set lifestyle causing her to gain 18,000 followers and an average of 50,000 likes per post in a short space of time. Although having an Instagram account is completely the norm for young adults these days, there was one problem.
Louise Delage didn’t exist.
The account was set up by a French PR agency on behalf of their health care client, Addict Aide. The campaign drew young adult’s attention to how easy it is to ignore the signs of addiction, but by liking the picture or video, you are also enabling it. It persuaded people to keep a watchful eye over people who may be suffering from addiction and notice silent cries for help.
Watch this eye opening campaign here:
Astonishingly, when the plot was revealed, the story was published in over 140 articles, it became a trending topic on Twitter and there was massive traffic to the Addict Aide website, bear in mind little money was given to promote the campaign. It was all through social media.
These amazing campaigns were only a few examples of the amazing things PR can do and the positivity it can spread.
Proving PR practitioners are not your stereotypical manipulative masterminds you see on movies or TV shows, they aim not just to highlight tough issues, but also provide solutions to tackle it, to change outdated suppressive social conventions and present a more forward thinking world.
From your friendly neighbourhood practising PR practitioner,
Annie Shivers is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She is on Twitter at @ShiversAnnie and LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/annie-shivers-9085b810a