If PR practitioners had a super power, should it be mind-reading? Claire Wheatcroft has asked me to publicise the CIPR Marcomms Group’s forthcoming evening event: Unlocking the secrets of the brain: the nascent world of neuro PR (taking place in London on 23 September – email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information).
The event aims to enable PR practitioners to “harness their own intuitive powers and put these into practice to win business and communicate more effectively” by using applied psychology and neuroscience – which are said to be “new tools”.
It sounds an interesting event. As someone with a degree in psychology, I know there’s been much studied and written over the 150 years or so that has given us a better understanding of human behaviour.
However, I wonder about the ethical implications of seeing psychology and now, neuroscience, as something to be used to our own ends. Of course, everyone uses persuasive and other techniques every day – even babies and dogs do it!
But should I be able to use an understanding of your brain – probably without your knowledge – to influence you? Does it depend on my motives or if it’s in your own best interests?
Is using psychology and neuroscience different to using intuition and good interpersonal skills to build rapport and influence through open dialogue?
I will dare to say that psychology is more important (to PR practitioners) than good writing…
Arguably, good writing needs an understanding of psychology – and much of what the public and PR professionals understand to be persuasive communications derives from psychological studies in the 1950s, particularly Carl Hovland‘s Yale Communication Model.
Should PR practitioners equally be following the research from neuroscientists to understand people’s thoughts and actions? Will it bring some holy grail of influencing human behaviour? And if it does – should it be allowed to?