Public Relations Born of Adversity

Hey! It’s May 20th, and I’m back in Blog action. My “Buzz of the Month™” has recently been “Buzz of the Quarter” as a result of the level of adversity in my world lately, so you have my apologies for that.

A History of Adversity

Speaking of adversity, at this time in our nation’s history, a time that is filled with constant adversity and change, public relations professionals find themselves overwhelmed with the incredibly important responsibility to facilitate effective, honest, informative communications with varied internal and external publics that must also simultaneously reassure and reestablish confidence. During times like this, it helps to remember that public relations in this country was born of adversity.

Samual Adams, a Public Relations Trend Setter

So, let’s journey back in time and reflect on the ingenious work of Samuel Adams during the Revolutionary War. This guy and his team were truly remarkable. Sam Adams and his supporters understood the importance of communicating with, and gaining the support of the public in order to achieve their organizational goals – mobilize the public, affect public opinion, fight a war, and form a government.

Use of Slogans

For example, he precisely developed the use of slogans to compress complex information into bite sized, memorable sayings that could be easily remembered and shared: “No Taxation Without Representation”.

Use of Organized Community Events

He also coordinated big events with community involvement to create a larger platform for idea sharing in order to solidify public opinion and get attention: The Boston Tea Party.

Dissemination of Information Through Communications Channels

He also organized The Committees of Correspondence, a group responsible for interpreting British actions to the colonists and to foreign governments, raising public awareness, and engaging public involvement: One of the members was Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense.

Thomas Paine and Common Sense

Now, let’s look at the example of the writings of Thomas Paine. His pamphlet, Common Sense, was published three times reaching publication of over 100,000 copies very shortly after being introduced to the public in January of 1776 – talk about viral marketing! Common Sense is often considered the greatest public relations act of the Revolution by assigning blame to King George III for the suffering of the colonists, steeling the resolve of the people and calling for an immediate declaration of independence – talk about swaying the early adopters!

Overcoming Communications Challenges with Creativity

Looking back, these folks were faced with incredible communications challenges, and they worked together to employ a wide variety of tactics – spokespersons, journalists, publications, flyers, slogans, and organized events to achieve their communications and organizational goals. And, we can too! It’s times like these that help us remember the foundational principals of effective public relations and reaffirm our importance and value to the organizations and publics we have sworn to ethically serve. Think about it!

Copyright 2009, Tracy L. Teuscher, APR, The Buzz Maker! LLC


3 thoughts on “Public Relations Born of Adversity

  1. I’m a fifth-grade teacher in Colorado, and an crucial part of teaching civics is providing students with our primary sources: the founding documents. This is critical in understanding what “We the People” really means. Today, as they did over 230 years ago, those documents instill in students the belief that all our voices are important. Every one of our citizens are given the right to pursue liberty. Futures do not have to be inevitable and “Little voices” can make dramatic impacts on events. That is Thomas Paine’s greatest contribution to our country. His pamphlet, Common Sense, spoke to all the voices in the 13 colonies during a time of great fear and indecision. He gave a vast number of citizens a vision of what each could do, 176 days before the Declaration of Independence. A belief that power should radiate from the citizens. That message is still paramount to all our students today. For that pamphlet alone, Paine needs to be recognized as a integral part of the American miracle.

    Mark Wilensky,
    author of “The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine: An Interactive Adaptation for All Ages”

    • Mr. Wilensky,
      I appreciate your comments and your unique perspective regarding Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Your specialized study of this particular journalist, his most influential writings and this particular time in our nations history is of great value. The study of our history, of great writers, of creative and revolutionary thinkers and communicators has always been of great interest and importance to me, but clearly your expertise in this area is beyond my current level of education and I thank you for commenting on my wee blog. I sure wish you had been my fifth grade history teacher, and I look forward to reading your book.

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