Being able to write persuasive prose, successful speeches and headline grabbing press releases is at the heart of what many in public relations would consider to be their role. At the next session of the CIPR Advanced Certificate and Diploma qualifications, our students will consider communications and persuasive theories as well as looking at the importance of building relationships. I anticipate a lively debate when we analyse the published materials of BP as a case study.
A recent analysis by Surma (in L’Etang and Pieczka’s Public Relations: Critical Debates and Contemporary Practice) undertakes an analysis of Nike’s 2001 social responsibility report finding the company more “self-serving” than “other-oriented”, defensive and interested more in the “discourse of marketing” than the “discourse of ethics”. I’ve been involved in producing such material myself in the past, but was never conscious of creating manipulative materials. So if public relations practitioners are “guilty” of rhetoric in our work, should we be more conscious of this, or is it an inevitable aspect of PR’s partisan role?