Public relations practitioners counselling clients on issues aiming to persuade children – whether tackling childhood obesity or engagement in science – should be “radiators” of positivity not “drains” of negativity. Look at the phenomenon of the Diet Coke and Mentos mints fizzy “carbonic” explosion – from the original to nearly 6,000 videos on YouTube, it is now it is hitting the schoolrooms. This is fun! It captures the imagination, is messy and an immediate causal reaction – a great way into explaining science. (Coca Cola also seriously addresses the “urban myths” around conducting the experiment in your stomach). PR communicators can learn from this great visual meme – which is easy to pass on by word of mouth (Google has 1.8 million sites talking about it) and replicable. As communications it is high energy and radiates positivity.
In contrast, the anti-marketing lobby have welcomed Ofcom’s announcement of banning “junk food” advertising on children’s television and around programmes they might be watching. There are many reasons why this won’t work: (1) The public (even children) aren’t Pavlov’s dogs – so let’s stop pretending everyone is so easily persuaded. (2) Society needs the public to take more responsibility, which means we need to think about what we are doing. (3) Bans and taxation lead to communications that are negative, draining energy and making us feel helpless without Nanny state to guide us. (4) Television is just one influence on anyone – and with social media and real life being more fun than most of what’s on the box – it is becoming increasingly less persuasive.
Should we really be “protecting” children from everything in life that could be bad for them (which probably includes scientific experiments too) or exciting their brains so they can be informed and enthusiastic participants in life?