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For Tour Interest and Comment

THE INDEPENDENT Vol. 1:u, No. 4083

This Business of Propaganda


··• · ·. By Edward L. Bernays

T HE recent investigation by the Federal


Trade Commission of public-utility propa-
ganda and the uncovering of the Hofer
syndicate in THE INDEPENDENT have again focused
And so there developed a special profession - I
have called it public relations counsel. Others have
termed it publicity direction. Some firms turned
over this new function in their work to outside
attention upon the propagandist and his relation organizations, whom they retained just as they
to the scheme of things. Not since the days of the would lawyers or accountants. Others appointed
pro-German and. pro-Allies propaganda has this vice presidents in charge of public relations, as for
country been m~de as cognizant of this ever-present instance the American Telephone and Telegraph
and powerful force. Company and large New York banks. In the field
It is altogether fitting and proper, therefore, to of associations, too, this work of public relations or
inquire in the light of the last ten years what propaganda was also undertaken, because industries,
have been the developments in postwar propaganda, as associations, realized that they were competing
especially as applied to industry - to big business. with other industries for the public's dollar- thct
The World War left business astounded at what the marble dealers with the limestone dealers, for in-
technique of propaganda had accomplished in the stance. They were also competing for the public's
conflict: Not only had it raised men and money good will as expressed in everything from morct
for individual Governments. There had been propa- purchases to more favorable legislation. We have,
ganda in favor of the love of nations, and other then, the realization on the part of big business that
propaganda for the hate · of other nations - all this new right arm of propaganda was very useful
successful. There had been propaganda to raise to it; and we have at the same time the adoption ·
morale and other propaganda to break it down. of this new profession of propaganda by many
Propaganda - all of it - making its mark on totally unfitted, who thought they could profit
millions of people. by the new condition.
Big business was n.o t the first force to recognize This has led to abuses in the field. But the growth
what this could mean to it. The war had brought of every business or professional field has undoubt~
about large money deficiencies in the funds of edly followed the same course. Despite centuries
colleges and other educational and social service of background in medicine and the formulation of
bodies. The war technique was turned to the solution JEsculapian, voluntary, and legal codes of ethics,
of these problems, there are still quacks
and coped with them and rnalpractitioners
with equal success. Propaganda is an ancient art, but it required the war to among the doctors.
Harvard and a score develop a new profession skilled in its uses. Governments, And as for the law-
· of other college funds, prominent persons, banking, industry have all called upon the yers, despite their
the Near East Relief public relations counsel to smooth out their contacts with background of history
and a score of other so.- the world. Somewhat recently the investigation of power
publicity has focused attention upon the legitimate use of and ethics, an investi-
cial-service projects, propaganda. THE INDEPE~DENT has invited Mr. Bernays, gation into the New
were made; possible one of the most prominent public relations counsel and author York shyster and am-
through a response of "Crystallizing Public Opinion," to explain in this article bulance-chasing law-
from the public which the rules of his profession and the limitations of propaganda yers is now going on
was based on the use and has justunearthed
of appeals and a even greater abuses
technique comparable to the war propaganda. thanwereanticipatedbytheinvestigatorsthemselves.
Big business now forcibly realized its possibilities But this is no palliative or excuse for propagan-
in the same direction. The public could still be dists who misuse their trust for their own ends. It
regimented by the old methods business had em- simply shows that in an economic world there will
p,oyed, to be sure. Advertising, with greater skill always be some whom money will tempt from the
applied in its creation and execution than ever path of ethical conduct, in a human world there
before, was still a most effective weapon. So were will always be some who have no ethics to start with.
salesmen and other sales promotional methods. Now what are the ethical relations of a propa-
But this "new propaganda," this new technique gandist or public relations counsel to the social
that had made men willing to give up their lives body? First of all, that he will not represent or plead
and their money - this was something big business in the court of public opinion a c-ause that he believ~
might find very useful! co be socially unsound. To be sure, that leaves a
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September 1, 1928 THE INDEPENDENT

wide field of action; and what is socially unsound relationship, for instance, when such an acqu~csccnce
to one man may not be socially unsound for another. in point of view is bought and paid for. Let us say
But it is a clear road for a man of decency and that the public relations counsel of an antitubercu-
conscience, Unlike a lawyer, he ne.ed not undertake losis committee, as a constructive part of its public
the cause of a client who has committed an unsocial relations program, urges upon a school board that
action. Possibly one reason for this is that, even better attention be paid to this subject in schools.
though a special pleader, he is not dissociated from If the local school board of the community has
the client in the public's mind. Another reason is realized this defect and is anxious to see it remedied,
that while he is plead- its members may lend
ing before the court the weight of their
- the court of public "The public relations counsel supervises and directs the own organization to
opinion - he is at the contacts of business and other organizations with the public. securing information
same time trying to He ascertains the state of public opinion toward a given com- on the subject and to
affect that court's pany, product, or idea, and dir~ts his efforts to strengthen approving and broad-
judgments and ac- favorable impressions or dispel ungrounded prejudices. ms casting efforts for its
function is to crystalllze public opinion and to make articulate
tions. He must judge ideas and events that are already in existence and that are amelioration, regard-
the results which his favorable to company policy. It is also an esaential part of his less of the fact that
work would accom- services to create the circumsta.qces or the news which will the antitubcrculosis
plish from an ethical themselves eventuate in the desired expression from the committee has started
point of view. public.'' - Edward L. Bernays the campaign, be-
In law, the judge cause they feel that
and jury hold the a constructive work is
deciding balance of power. In public opinion, the being accomplished by these efforts. Under these
public relations counsel is judge and jury, because circumstances, such efforts to mobilize public opin-
through his plcadin~ of a case the public may accede ion would then probably come from the school board
to his opinion and Judgment. Therefore, the public or whatever it might be, because this organization
. relations counsel must maintain an intense scrutiny stands back of the idea. If the public relations
of his actions, avoiding the propagation of unsocial counsel as a special pleader can interest a prominent
or harmful movements or ideas. Every public rela- man in the cause he is furthering, and this man
tions counsel has been confronted with the necessity becomes the protagonist and propagandist for the
of refusing to accept clients whose cases in a law idea, a statement or any other action he may take
court would be valid, but whose cases in the higher is satisfactorily identified as to point of origin if it
court of public opinion are questionable. is sent out by that individual. As to the flow of
Second, he will not take the cases of conflicting propaganda into the newspaper offices of the
clients. If he is helping to win a fight for the niar- country, every editor can very simply reject any
gcrine manufacturers, he cannot work also with material that does not stand out in the news of
the butter makers. If he is working with Japan, that day. All he needs is a wastebasket. One thing,
he cannot also work with China, because their however, should be observed by the editor: that
interests arc usually opposed. . is, not to print material that has no mark of origin
Third, when he deals with any of the~mediums or one which is ethically doubtful, even though it
of dissemination to the public, whether it be the is plainly stated.
press or the radio, the lecture platform or the motion The social value of the public relations counsel
picture, he will do so as the representative of his Hes in the fact that he brings to the public facts
client, maintaining the same standards of truth and ideas of social value which would not so readily
with them as $ovcrn the morals and habits of the gain acceptance otherwise. While he, of course, may
world he lives in. represent men and individuals who have already
In a campaign to mold public opinion toward a gained great acceptance in the public mind, he may
given cause, the public relations counsel, known represent new ideas of value not yet accepted.
as such, may enlist the interest of an individual or
an organization in his client's point of view. That AS for the relations between the public relations
individual organization may then propagandize £l. counsel and his client, little can be said which
it through its own channels because it is interested would not be merely a repetition of the code of
in it. In such a case, the point of origin then becomes honest dealing between individuals. The public rela-
that individual or organization. The public relations tions counsel owes his client conscientious, effective
counsel, having made the link between the interest service, of course. Much more important than
of his client and the interest of the third party, no any positive duty, however, is the negative duty -
longer need figure in the resulting expression to the that he must never accept a retainer or assume a
public. This is always predicated on the relationship position which puts his duty to the groups he repre-
being on an entirely ethical basis. It is not an ethical sents above his duty to society.
11:LLllVG C,4/VDID,4TE TO VOTERS.
The Independent has quite an idea in its article on the politica
"Supersalesman" by Emily Newell. The author would make th(
campaign manager rather an ingenious cuss who could think out
all sorts of stunts to advertise his candidate. The story is wortl
reading and at first blush makes a brand-new idea in political-
izing, but summed up it amounts simply to more and possibly bet-
ter ways of advertising; in other words, salesmanship. But it',
interesting, and we quote:
First of all, I would discard the old-type political manage1·
and engage a high-salaried, successful sales manager to " sell"
my candidate. The first thing such a sales manager would
.do would be to survey his territory and decide where he had
the best chance of selling his product. He would find out the
habits of his desired customers so as to discover how he
might most easily and quickly bring his candidate and cause
to their notice. He would study their tastes so that he might
choose how best to present his product to their favo1·. I-le
would treat his problem just as a problem in the mal'keting
of tooth paste would be handled.
Nor would he do this by office theorizing. He would send
--iuxDY"lpc..,,...rt..; or go himself over this teITitory to learn the.se things.
He would then plan his cnmpaign: no guessing about it, no
sending speakers hither and yon with no idea of how much
he would get for a dollar. He would carefully weigh one
method of presenting a candidate against anothe1·, deciding
for the method which would reach the most voters per dolla1·
of expense. He would, f or instance, r ealize that the expense
of reaching large numbers in congested cities was less per
vote than reaching them in small towns, so he would plan to
focus the campaign in that city which normally returned a
majority for his party. He would then concentrnte on how
to put his candidate before them in the best guise. He would,
of course, arrange for newspaper advertising. By this, l do
not mean a small announcement on the last Sunday before
the election. Early in the campaign he would buy space and
fill it daily or weekly. Under his candidate's picture would
appear a few ·s hort, terse, telling statements, either clever,
· witty, or epigrammatic. If the candidate could not write
them, he would buy them from some not-yet-anived Will
Rogers or some expert on tooth paste advertising writing.
· If Alice Roosevelt and Mrs. Borah and Queen Marie can sell
a face cream, an actor, a baseball player, a bank president
ough; to sell a senator, and even an opera singer or a movie
-----.tar. i11;ht help.· He -might rai&e an electric sign- not of a
namt, but of an overflowing beer mug or a hand across the
sea or a full dinner pail or an empty sugar bowl. He might
hang his posters, not showing names and carrying long state-
ments, but those drawn by a Gibson or a Flagg showing
mountains of taxes being excavated by "our candidate" in the
guise of Economy or a manufacturer heaping taxes upon the
mountain called Tariff. ·
He might produce a movie film built around a real plot
and at least one star, setting his candidate in the midst of
aome drawing-room or wild west scene, inserting a fight and
a dance (not by the candidate) , offering it with a vaudeville
to the local committee with a request that they buy out the
house and make it pay for itself. It would cost no more
money than they now spend for the opera house and the band
when the speaker comes to town and assuredly they would
,et more for their money.
Of course, he would not neglect free advertising. In ad-
dition to the paid advertising he would "make" news, do
stunts that the newspapers would have to report. Nor need
the stunts necessarily be undignified. What is a White House
breakfast for the actors but a stunt, a pilgrimage of women
t.o a front porch to hear a statement on bills of interest to
----women, a demonstration of presidential dexterity with a rake
· or a back-platform tour? Some of them would border on the
ridiculous. It might tax the campaign manager's ingenuity
to make the front page with dignity, but an expert could do it.
. . . And such accounts are not read by the cit;' voter
only. Every stunt reported in the city newspapers adver-
tises cause and candidate to its country readers, also. But
the good sales manager will not stop with city stunts. He
will stimulate local stunts to be reported in local papers. Nor
will he need to insist on them : the same spirit of imitation
that carries the newest shade in hosiery to the remotest vil-
lage, that makes the same book a best seller in every city and
town, that makes the D. A. R. and the notary club national
in scope and gives a fall festival to every hamlet will lead
the towns to initiate a lltunt of their own and report it in
tbeir own papen.