As today’s spate of tech scandals shows, privacy is no longer just an illusion. In the meantime, good PR can still be useful to politicians looking to reach voters or to people eager to make a statement — even if their motives aren’t always pure.
In fact, some government departments are even recruiting PR firms in an effort to get their messages out without challenging the public’s trust of government or police.
Britain’s Metropolitan Police, for example, has had offices in London and Manchester for many years but it has only taken the Westminster school of PR for Anonymous to make some of the biggest international scandals in recent years all about the policing and security services.
Partnering up with the activist group led by Patrick Gray, Margie Gowens and colleagues published a series of satires on government corruption and scandal. The concept of their current newsletter, In The System, however, is like anything from Peppa Pig: they release short films that play a bigger part in the online story than the text, resulting in a virtuous circle of downloads, and that have become strangely, consistently irresistible.
But if the ethics of the PR sector has improved, nothing can take the place of strong communication in propaganda efforts. The fact that in just about every campaign, the liar is treated with more respect than the lie itself is very bad news indeed, especially when such propaganda is coupled with the sort of insights that only a PhD holder or a trained journalist could give you — both of which could reveal the truth about the company’s stories.
Not only that, but nobody in government is bothering to actually answer questions about the veracity of the PR work. In spite of efforts to monitor usage, stopping bylaw, and the creation of a “media alert” service, those campaigning in support of anti-government parties still have far fewer things to say.