Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Friday, May 26, 2006

PR and Democracy: From Berlin, I hopped a plane to Riga, which (for the benefit of parochial American readers) is the capital of Latvia, probably the liveliest of the emerging Baltic markets. I’m giving a speech later today, and doing an interview with a local business magazine, which submitted questions in advance and prompted me to start thinking about the link between public relations and democracy.

People are cynical about PR—they still tend to see what we do in terms of manipulation. But the reality is that public relations is an essential component of and a necessary contributor to democracy.

Public relations flourishes when people have choices, when they can choose who to vote for, where to work, what to buy, and which stocks to own. Public relations flourishes when people have choices because governments, companies and other institutions can only secure the support they need to survive by informing, educating and persuading.

And democracy flourishes where public relations is practiced in the right way, because public relations is about dialogue. That’s the difference between public relations and propaganda. The propagandist is interested in one-way communication: in telling people what he wants them to hear. But public relations people engage in conversations. They forge relationships. They listen at least as much as they talk.

That’s why the great growth opportunity for public relations is in those regions and countries where democracy is on the rise.

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