How do you use your strategy to manipulate your audience towards the behaviour you need?How do you use your social media, content, influencers, marketing strategy, advertisements. Or any other methods you have in your sleve to make an approach using the understanding of crowd psychology to your favour?
Public relations as the practice of managing the flow of information between an organisation and its public. How the organisation reaches its public, is of great importance to the organisation. As an organisational psychologist and sociologist, interested in human behaviour. I find many aspects of this interesting. And to be aware of these effects as a consumer for defensive purposes, is just as important as being able to use them as tools.
I will try my best to make stuff that is dry and boring for the average person, useful and interesting. We will look at some theories connected to the processes of how the organization reaches its public, and the cognitive factors connected to exposure of various information. How the social factors play an important role in PR and advertising, simple challenges faced for both PR and advertisement practitioners. Solutions and how the cognitive processes work when we as individuals are exposed to PR and advertisements.
Edward L. Bernays was by many considered as the first public relation professional who also was recognized as a theorist. He was Sigmund Freud’s nephew, and many of his ideas were drawn from Freud’s theories on illogical motives that shape human behaviour, motivations that arrive from the subconscious, along with other theories, specially in crowd psychology.
Crowd psychology is concerned with the behaviour and thought processes of individual crowd members, and the crowd as a whole. Bernays successfully used these theories to manipulate crowds mainly for commercial reasons, but he was also involved in influencing crowds of political matter. One of his most famous case studies was to overcome the taboo of women smoking in public, by doing that increasing consumers. This maybe one of the biggest industrial taboos at that time. He did that by using news and not advertisement, showing successful women smoking in public. Women smoking at that time, was negatively viewed.
The news at that time, a very trustful media along the unsuspecting public. It has a positive view as a trustful a true source of information. Something the news in these decades haven’t been able to enjoy at the same extent. He also used the effect of “third party authorities” to get trough his message. The leader of a crowd has a big influence on it group. By influencing the leaders of a social group either by their conscious or unconscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group they sway. These are among techniques that involves psychology as a tool for public relations practitioners. Something that can take in use methods to understand, and influence the public. This article will explain the basics of how these factors influence the individual.
Mental schemas and PR
To be able to process the huge information flow we as individuals receive at all time at a conscious state. Our brain categorise this information by putting the information we process into mental schemas. This is a form of categorisation, where we create a collection of information received, and categorise its similarities. A mental shortcut for faster being able to gather up and process information on facing similarities, then create motivation towards it and finally behaviour. Our brain is in the business of saving power, and being able to react fast. And will always be interested in shortcuts to make decisions on behaviour.
As an example lets look at a familiar object, a chair. Where the first meeting with a chair, in childhood. It is not obvious what a chair is, or the use for the chair. But when learning more about the chair, and the more meetings with different chair. The schemas of chair in our brain, gathers a concept. It is then easier at later stages to identify a chair and differences in chairs the richer the schema is. Schemas can be positive or negative loaded in the association of it. This depending on the emotions connected to it. Social schemas work in the same way, we categorise people, behaviour, personalities and even ourselves in schemas where we later can take a shortcut and gather the information received earlier when needed.
Social identity as a tool
Social identity theory states that as individuals we have a concept of the self, and our belongings to relevant social groups. This individual desire is a key aspect in PR and in the tool of advertising. Individuals often tend to pre-judge others by how they identify with them, using their schemas to do so. Where individuals or groups similar to how they identify the concept of themselves are often more positively viewed, and social groups they do not identify themselves with tend to be viewed more negatively.
People place themselves in various groups depending on many factors, all from age, gender, socio-economic status or other factors. Understanding this in- group effect where individuals tend to favour a group they identify themselves with, and discriminate against out- groups they do not identify themselves with And as well as the understanding of schemas, is a very useful tool for understanding how PR reaches people and the cognitive effect of advertising. The stronger identification with the sub- culture that the in- group represents. The higher chance the individual have of adapting the in- groups culture and behaviour. This is the effect you want to use, when you use a crowds social identity as a tool.
Using desires for Schema creation
Optimal distinctiveness theory states that individuals have a need, for the achievement of both identifying themselves with a group. But at the same time has the need for uniqueness. This creating a struggle for equilibrium between social integration and uniqueness within social groups. Optimal distinctiveness theory suggests that individuals are constantly re- adjusting themselves to achieve this need to be different, and at the same time the need to be similar.
A PR practitioner can use this effect in shaping peoples schemas, creating negative or positive emotions towards the concept he represents. Creating schemas for people positively or negatively charged. Doing this by using the in- group and out- group effect to inform what is the norm of the in- group, and the favoured behaviour. Or identifying the out- group on what is not the norm.
By doing this it is possible to create a culture for how the groups individuals self-concept is identified, within the in- group values. Creating for example consumer behaviour towards a certain product, or attitude change campaigns. Referring to the individuals need of equilibrium between social integration and uniqueness in the social group, the PR practitioner can use this opposing concepts that brings out the schemas of uniqueness in the social group.
One way is using the tool of advertising, for example social media, content, influencer effects and much more to shape the individuals schema with the idea that the concept is associated with this equilibrium. For example a clothing brand that will show integration within the group, but also mirror uniqueness and high status within the group. By having good taste and being able to afford these kind of products. On the other side of the equilibrium we find the need for folding in more with the rest of the group. Where the PR practitioner can present schemas of popular behaviour where the individual is motivated to follow the behaviour patters since “everyone” else does so. For example donation for charity along with everyone else in the in- group.
This is off course a very basic introduction to the use of these tools.
Tim has background as is business psychologist and work sociologist with expertise in building organisations and teams to solve problems for the future. Tim has expertise in technology and the symbiosis between human interaction and technology in operational processes.