Our “Propaganda” Really Connects

I had the distinct honor and privilege to serve as a panelist this past Tuesday at the Teacher Workshop on Propaganda sponsored by the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education that was held at Mercer Community College in West Windsor, NJ. The goal of the conference was to provide educators with additional knowledge on how to teach students about the uses of propaganda.

My role was to show the practical applications of propaganda that are used by businesses to promote their products through advertising, marketing and public relations.  I chose to use a case study of a leading brand which I had experience working on and detailed to the teachers how using celebrity endorsers, proper messaging and promotion helped grow the brand.  However, since I was the third and final presenter in the morning session, I had the  opportunity to hear from two other panelists on how propaganda can be used for evil and how it becomes permanently stored in our brain.

Dr. Marvin Goldstein, retired professor and Former Director Holocaust/Genocide Resource Center at Rider University was the first speaker and he vividly dissected the use of propaganda by Nazi  Germany through movies, print and other portrayals.  Dr. Goldstein showcased how the Nazi’s victimized the Jewish people through these means to sway the opinions of the German population and validate their hatred of the Jews.

Dr. Tim Brennan of Hudson County Community College gave a fascinating talk on The Impact of Propaganda on our brains and consciousness.  His talk made me realize just how effective propaganda can be as it becomes part of our long-term memory stored in the Hippocampus region of the brain. 

As I discussed how the tobacco industry used hollywood stars in the 30’s and 40’s to promote their products and supplied cigarettes to the troops in World War II and moved on to discuss how one brand effectively promoted their product through various mediums, I was struck by the impact of what we as communicators really do.

Our jobs are to provide the proper messaging for clients and develop the right pitch to sway a news producer, writer or editor to get them to cover what our clients are doing .  Sure, we want to change perceptions and move the needle on the attention meter for our client programs.  However, when reflecting on how one government used these same techniques to murder millions of people and how our brains actually process this information flow, permanently archiving the messaging that filters in, it makes you more cognizant of the powerful communications tools you are using.

What we do as public relations professionals is not always important in the scheme of things, when you consider all of the ills of society.  However, we owe it to our clients to deliver their messages in the best possible light to prospective audiences.

What we really need to do is take a step back and acknowledge that when we do deliver such messages,  our actions can permanently have an effect on the population.  Let’s make sure it’s all done in a positive manner.

Tom Cosentino

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