In a buzzing British Library Conference Centre auditorium, the Editor-In-Chief of the Huffington Post UK, Carla Buzasi hosted a very enjoyable, yet controversial, panel discussion surrounding the summer exhibition 'Propaganda: Power and Persuasion' with PR gurus Mark Borkowski and Trevor Beattie, who explored how successful PR can be seen as modern propaganda.
Using animations from the most successful and disputed PR campaigns, the panel discussed what makes a PR campaign effective, be it political or consumer-focused, and shed light on the comparative uses of social media platforms and traditional media as channels of reaching specific audiences. Borkowski and Beattie agreed that traditional and social media both play their particular role in targeting different audiences.
In essence though the core of a successful PR or propaganda campaign remains centred around a great idea in which the platform from which this idea delivered remains purely a means to reach particular audiences. The best ideas will be fearless and spark a dynamic dialogue, like the FCUK campaign that Beattie championed - which even made it to court. We enjoyed a screening of one of FCUK's most provocative adverts and his hilarious account of testing the tolerance of the advertising authorities.
Borkowski shared his belief that the public is a herd and how successful communications campaigns address and control it - this image was shockingly true, especially with a view on the collected behaviour seen in social media. The comparative use of social media and traditional media as platforms for propagandists to deliver campaigns was then obviously hotly debated.
Felix Baumgartner's Red Bull Space Jump proved the best example to me of how some of the most successful PR campaigns are those that fearlessly stimulate conversation; the brand took a huge risk that paid off, the YouTube video was watched 34,344,901 times and broke records to amass the highest-ever concurrent views at over 8,000,000.
Although social media platforms (still) have limited audiences (only 1% of Brits have Twitter), brands such as Red Bull have shown how social media can be incredibly successful in effectively targeting audiences. Interacting with your brand and inspiring your desired audience across a variety of suitable channels of communication lies at the heart of successful PR campaigns - and always will do.
As an ambitious PR intern, I was inspired to learn that it is not just a brand's presence on social media that matters, it is the force behind the idea that drives the success of that brand's presence in that particular space. With an audience devouring and absorbing a larger quantity of information faster than ever before, Red Bull's stunt is a great example of sparking a conversation that transcends the constraints of traditional media platforms by inspiring millions to re-tweet, re-post and re-blog. Brands that only re-tweet and effectively recycle other ideas stand to waste a crucial medium to display original comment and innovative thought leadership within their field.
I would thoroughly recommend a visit to the British Library's summer exhibition 'Propaganda: Power and Persuasion' which runs until the 17th September.