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Friday, March 13, 2009

Opinion Engineering

One of my teachers talked about opinion formulation and role of media in opinion engineering in the class the other day. He was elaborate on the practice of newspapers trying to train its readers to read certain kinds of news written in specific language and style - and how this training goes to form a loyal and dedicated readership.
One may question why am I taking up this forum to talk about what the teacher said in a class of twenty students instead of saying whatever I have to say in the class itself. I have two reasons for it – first, I did not want to disturb the class and the second and most important, what he said is not so simple and innocent a statement and needs to be debated in public sphere.
People absorb attitude from the culture that surrounds them as they grow up. This absorption of attitude lead to formation of public opinion . When attitude are based on deeply-held personal values, persuasion can hardly influence attitude. Public opinion, once formed and set-in stick for years afterwards. It is during our college years that social and political ideas crystallize in our minds on the basis of our observation of the world around us at that time.
For Public Relations the biggest problem today is not getting noticed – the problem is getting believed and trusted. No Public Relations policy, however well planned it may be, can build trust if reality is working towards destroying it. It is foolish to assume that people’s mind are like empty can that you can pour whatever liquid you like to.
We are living in era where people’s trust in public institutions, policy makers, elected representatives and the whole gamut of governance is fast eroding. People in the government think because they have been vested with the right to do, people will believe what they do are right. A large majority of our own people are trying to remain blind to the growing cynicism and changed values of the new generation and like to believe that all their communication messages would have the same credibility they enjoyed three decades ago.
Edward L. Bernay’s defined Public Relations as - “Public Relations is that discipline that helps reconcile institutional or individual behaviour in a manner that accords with the public interest and when effectively communicated, creates opinion or attitude that motivate target audience to specific course of action. There are two distinguished part in the definition – behaviour and communication. No communication, however excellent it may be, can be effective if the behaviour of the individual or the institution is not good. The government today is not trusted not because of lack of effective communication but because of bad behaviour and performance.

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