Having a scientific background (well a BSc in Psychology), I was particularly interested in reading a piece about ‘Is the practice of public relations art or science’? The piece is based on a 1920′s article by Berneys that holds an assertion that “public relations is the practical application of the knowledge of the social sciences and, since the ultimate goal of public relations is to gain the consent or cooperation of the public, it could be called “the engineering of consent“.
Nearly a hundred years later, the fundamental principle remains the same. The channels might have changed but whether we are gaining column inches, engaging a community or inviting them to watch some content – we are gaining the cooperation of the public by opening the conversation and gaining their loyalty.
As you’d imagine Bernays came across a fair amount of criticism, particularly claiming to be able to guarantee public results but theories of manipulation aside, I would like to raise a banner for Bernays proposal. PR isn’t an exact science but we can as PR professionals ensure there is a scientific principle behind our work. Based on insight, evidence from planning and a clear measurement criteria that is transparent and, above all, meaningful to business facts and figures.
In this sense PR is scientific – we are creating knowledge through our outreach and are able to create an explanation and test predictions. It is not necessarily the ‘variable’ you use to ignite a reaction (ie: the tactic) but treating each chemical (ie: the brand) as individual.