How to Bend Minds

It’s a P.R. world. Public Relations is the technology of communicating management policy in a way that people adopt it as their own. Or simply put, PR is the machine that gets you to buy an agenda.

Probably the most successful PR coup of our time was David Axelrod’s campaign to get Barrack Obama elected to the United States Presidency. The candidate had to look good and be appealing to masses of young voters. Enter Barrack Obama; a green U.S. Senator with no business experience who had charm, wit, good looks, and a Harvard law degree.

It was brilliant. Rock bands were hired to perform free concerts. In Germany, one of Europe’s top names performed a free concert just before Obama spoke. Thousands turned out for the concert and then listened to what the man had to say as the cameras rolled. In the US, Springsteen tickets can run $100s. He was free for Obama.

The country was ripe for change after President Bush’s fiasco with the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That snafu set the stage for a Democratic Party takeover.

David Axelrod has been plotting campaigns for politicians since 1985. He is famous for a technique called “Astroturfing,” wherein front groups are formed to do protests or rallies in favor of whatever the paying client wants. If  there is a fight to ban dogs from city parks and Axelrod is in charge, be sure there will be a group called, “Citizens Against Dogs in Parks,” formed to protest loudly on the steps of City Hall.

ACORN was ready made for the Obama campaign. They had thousands of employees and volunteers across the country. As the unions joined onto the PR wave, Front Groups abounded across the country for Obama. (Note: After his stint in the Whitehouse, Mr. Axelrod is back in the private sector designing the 2012 Obama campaign.)

Axelrod had media connections going back decades. The message formulated was, “Hope and Change.” “Yes we can!” became a battle cry across the nation. It was  like Woodstock on steroids. “Yes we can What?” never came up. The Republicans were campaigning in the tired old 1990’s style and had no traction against Axelrod’s PR machine. Maybe they’ve learned their lesson.

So, here’s the formula:

1. Define your goal.

2. Do thorough surveys of public opinion on the subject to get their, “Button Words.”

3. Concoct your message to push those buttons.

4. Select a candidate or spokesperson to deliver your message.

5. Enlist every press and media contact possible to support your campaign.

Now comes the interesting part, manipulating the press and media for coverage.  A good press release needs four things: Controversy, Big Names, Money, and it must put someone in the spotlight who is being attacked. (Note: add Sex to the mix and it can go viral.) Politics is a ripe field for all items.

6. Once you have the media cooking, give the public what it wants and that’s usually something for nothing. Free rock concerts did the job in Axelrod’s Obama campaign.

However, there’s a pretty strong caveat in the PR world: do not tell lies; tell an acceptable truth. Lies are mine fields and sooner or later, one of them will blow up. ACORN was a mine waiting to go off and it did.

The next time you read an article, try and look behind the words for the agenda it represents. What is the author trying to get you to believe? I don’t care what your politics are. I do care that you know when someone is trying to bend your mind.

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 (c) copyright Susannah Morgan 2012

A similar article was published in 2009….in the author’s opinion, it’s more relevant today.


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