Chapter 2 – Dealing in Reality: Protocols of Persuasion

To further his research and understanding of the rise of public relations in the United States, Ewen decided to teach a course on the topic in 1993. Ewen assumed the class he would teach at Hunter College in New York City would survey the ideas, events, and people who had contributed to the age of public relations. He would eventually find out that the course would become much more than that.

As the course title was announced, “The CULT(ure) of Publicity”, Ewen immediately created stir. In mid-September, Ewen received news that Lynn Palazzi, a reporter for New York Newsday wanted to include his course in a story on the city’s most interesting college courses. Ewen decided this was a huge opportunity for his class. Following what Edward Bernays taught him: “…mounting events that are calculated to stand out as “newsworthy,” yet, at the same time, which do not appear to be staged” Ewen formulated a plan with his class. After much discussion and planning, the class decided upon the following:

  1. Students would each bring in articles (mainly from Newsday), and explain how each news article was shaped by the handiwork of a PR professional. This would supply subject matter to the reporter Palazzi.
  2. Students would overwhelmingly raise their hands to indicate they wanted to participate in the discussion. If they raised their right hand – they actually had something to say. If they raised their left hand – they were just creating a sense of enthusiasm.
  3. All students would come to class wearing black – in order to create mystery and “bohemian intellectual tone” to the class.
  • All the students vowed to act unaware of the stranger – Palazzi – in the room as well.
  • Palazzi was told to act as a student before entering the class, so that the class would not notice the “special guest.”

The class prevailed, and completely shocked reporter Palazzi – though she held it in until the end of class. Weeks later, a charming article was written about the class. The package the class had presented to Palazzi indicated that they had mastered, the “Way of Spin.” These public relations practices the class took upon are prevalent in present-day American society. For example, the students raising their hands with silent signals is comparable to the “applause” sign used today on live television. The visual effects of every student wearing black is similar to the way in which politicians present amongst dramatic backdrops. Ewen explains how the class learned, planned, and excelled in terms of “impression management.”

“Public relations is the science of creating circumstances.” –Edward Bernays

With the amount of resources we have today, creating impressions in the public eye should be even easier. Making a statement, no matter how much importance the original event has, is the job of a public relations agent. Ewen’s class project reminds me of a project my public relations class recently took part in…

On Thursday, February 7th 2013, us Rochesterians became aware of an incoming snowstorm named, “Nemo.” (Now, “Nemo” itself was a way in which a person – or in this case the Weather Channel – created stir within a rather bland event. By deciding to name the snowstorm, the public was given the ability to universally discuss the snowstorm with ease, a possible Twitter hashtag (#Nemo), the reference to the Disney fish, and the mounting new stories about actually naming a snowstorm.) Image

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Back to my class – along with the help of our professor, we decided to host our class via the internet the next day, Friday, February 8th for three reasons:

  1. To overcome Nemo – we would be snowed in.
  2. To create a pseudo event – turn our regular class material into an extraordinary historical event.
  3. To utilize an up & coming social platform – SpreeCast – a video networking site that allows the public to meet celebrities, watch tutorials, and speak live with others.

Image Click on logo to see COMM270’s SpreeClass & witness history!

The planning and creation of the “SpreeClass” does not stop there. With any event or news story, there must be follow-up. We then gathered our thoughts and made sure to share clips via Twitter, and write press releases on the historical event. Impression management is more than creating a fancy headline. A PR agent must plan, host, network, follow-up, socialize, fix crisis, and create importance in whatever they do.

My Spreeclass Press Release

Our “SpreeClass” has now become a bi-weekly event, in which each group takes their turn at presenting a chapter of Ewen’s book via SpreeCast from a different location. The class must discuss via video, comment live, and suggest links throughout our classes. We have taken communication to a whole new level! Image

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