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The Relation of Psychology to PR

Connecting the dots

Many wonders if psychology relates to PR. If it is, is it in the structure or in the delivery of the message? How does psychology come into play?

The connection between PR and psychology dates back to the early 1920s. Edward Bernays, an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations, also known as the father of public relations, was the first to make a link between psychology and influencing human behaviour through communications.

PR professionals aim to relay information that is persuasive, effective, and that leads to an action. Knowing how their audience forms their attitudes guarantees them a leading edge.

In order to understand the ways public relation connects to psychology, professional insight is necessary. PR Professionals will tell you that they take the same four steps when making a PR plan time and time again:

  • Identifying an audience
  • Establishing how an audience is currently forming an opinion of a brand/product
  • Finding out how attentive an audience is to messaging
  • Discovering how keen an audience is to retain a message

Using these four steps accurately can propel a PR plan to an ingrained societal belief. Take the example of Beech-Nut packing company which in the 1920s assigned Edward Bernays to promote the sale of bacon. By using expert endorsements from physicians and classical conditioning, a theory developed by his uncle Sigmund Freud, Bernays developed a PR plan that linked bacon to eggs as a ‘Traditional American Breakfast,’ an idea which still permeates to this day.

These behaviours fall under the umbrella of social psychology, namely consumer behaviour. Simply put, psychology helps practitioners understand their subjects and tailor their messages accordingly.

Moving onward, I prefaced this blog by attempting to relate psychology to the planning and implementation of PR. In the upcoming part 2 of this blog, I will delve into the impact that psychology has on a PR campaign.

Omar Medani is Account Executive Intern at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, an independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. | www.cbpr.me