Public Relations and Progadanda: A Case Study

November 3, 2006 at 9:32 pm 2 comments

The word “propaganda” has an awful connotation associated with it.
As up-and-coming PR practitioners, we must be sensitive to the fact
that some of our work may be considered “propaganda” or “story spinning”
in the eyes of others. Propaganda can be defined in many different ways. Dictionary.com states that it is; “information, ideas, or rumours deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.”

A PR agency called the Lincoln Group, claims their work in Iraq is not propaganda.They feel they must use deceit in their campaign for the Iraqis to listen to theirmessages. The Lincoln Group feels that if they tell the Iraqi people the advertisements they are watching are paid for by the United States, they won’t believe them, even if the message is one of hope and freedom. Their website www.lincolngroup.com states that they are
“a strategic communications and public relations firm providing insight and influence in
challenging and hostile environments.” Based on their website, they seem to be the best of the best in their field of work and that is why they won a $5 million contract from the United States government to help inform the Iraqi people about fighting the insurgents and accepting a new government. 

On the other side, many critics feel the work done in Iraq by the Lincoln Group is propaganda. Since the Lincoln Group is working closely with the Psyops division of the United States army,the critics feel their public relations campaign is crossing the line into manipulation. Psyops is a short form for “psychological operations” and an example of their work is airdropping
pamphlets in Iraq and Afghanistan. These pamphlets would tell the Iraqi people “not to resist the US troops.” The Psyops would also give out water bottles with a phone number on them, and tell the Iraqi people to report any suspicious actions that could be considered terrorist acts to the US authorities.
Another main reason why critics feel the Lincoln Group is using propaganda is because the US military is paying them to plant positive stories in Iraq newspapers. The campaigns in question were supposed to have disclaimers on them to show they were paid advertisements from the United States, but these disclaimers were usually not on the paid advertisement.
This is a case where there are many factors involved. I personally don’t know which side is right and which side is wrong.  My only goal is to show how one company’s public relations style can be seen in a totally different way than it was intended for. We must be aware that some critics might attack our style of public relations, especially if we are working within the realm of government or politics where everything that is said will be scrutinized. Hopefully this doesn’t happen, but if it does, we will be smart enough to have a plan in place to cover our actions. 🙂

To learn more about my topic, you can read the following articles;

Duke, L. (March 26, 2006) The Word at War.
www.washingtonpost.com
This article characterizes the difference in opinion over the word propaganda. The
Lincoln Group says they are not using propaganda; they are only “influencing” the Iraqi
people.  The article goes on to describe propaganda and it’s history.
Vest, J. (Nov 30, 2006). US: The Hazy Story of the Lincoln Group; www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=12840
This article describes the Lincoln Group and how they got their first campaign
from the United States to inform the Iraqi people of the “coalition’s goals.” It also
describes their transformation from “Iraqex” to the Lincoln Group.
www.lincolngroup.com (2006).
This website gives background information on the business, how they go about
their work and what services they do. It also describes their current news and their
partnerships.

Thanks for reading,

                     Monica Charron  Edited by Stacey Hunter

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jamie Gill  |  November 3, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    Hello Monica,

    I agree with you the word “Propoganda” needs to be carefully used. Before, taking this class and reading Intro to Pr and the chapter which talks about Propogranda, I associated with negative feelings.

    I remember associating the word “Propogranda” with World War 1 and 2, and Propoganda being used negatively. In the World War 1 and 2 context, Propoganda was meant giving out negative and inaccurate information.

    In regard to Public Relations, Propoganda needs to be clearly defined and stated, if and when used by the Pr Practitioner or Communications person.

    Jamie Gill

    Reply
  • 2. prclass  |  November 8, 2006 at 12:40 am

    Hey Monica,

    Excellent blog, i had no idea this was going on and i too am torn on how i feel about it. It was written perfectly , i had little corrections to make.

    Stacey Hunter

    Reply

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