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PR VS Activism

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The article by Laurie Honda on the “It gets better” project which focuses on the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community is a good example of the cultural hegemony theory which advocates equal rights and social status.

The project, which started in September 2010 in the USA and spread over five continents. President Barack Obama lent his voice supporting the movement against bullying and in March 2011 First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a conference on anti-bullying. Its aim is to prevent suicides among LGBTQ teens, but the message echoes far beyond that. The campaign has collected and posed on its website more than 50,000 entries from people from all possible identities, i.e. sexual orientation, geography, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age and so on.

Owing to the wide variation of communities, the campaign was tailored carefully to ensure the inclusion of all pertaining public, and counter criticism received by media and general biases against the LGBTQ community. What resulted was the almost unstoppable power of the “It gets better” project, which was particularly drawn from its unique all-inclusive and participatory approach.

IGB has been hailed as one of the most powerfully influential grassroots social justice campaign in the gay rights movement (Grzanka & Mann, 2014).

The “Robi Damelin Forgiveness” Project

The first thing that Robi Damelin said when she heard about the son’s David’s death was, “do not take revenge in the name of my son” (https://www.theforgivenessproject.com/robi-damelin). She advocated peace and forgiveness. She is an Israeli PR professional and a peace activist; her son was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper while serving in the Israeli army. Robi attributed her reaction to her individual perspective on ethics and strong commitment to peace.

The “Robi Damelin Forgiveness Project” talks about “reconciling the potentially conflicting roles of the professional advocate and the social conscience” (Fitzpatrick and Gauthier 2001). She used dialogue as an ethical tool to thwart the attempt of the more powerful to impose themselves on the less powerful (Kent 2013).

The exemplary behaviour of the bereaved mother who engaged with her son’s killer to promote non-violence and peace promoted an invaluable motivation for building a relationship of trust peace. It is in a way a model of persuasion, which would be described as asymmetrical but since it involves communication that facilitates sharing and rapport building, it becomes the opposite, i.e. symmetrical (Pieczka 2016).

This example will highlight the tension existing today between intersts of the society and personal interest as factors of motivation of PR in activism. It is often that a dialogue starts as asymmetrical, but once ethical direction is engaged becomes symmetrical.

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This brings us to the face of activism today. It is no longer the face of the hostile confrontationist; it has moved to seek participation and conversation towards building a middle path that acknowledges and respect the power and rights of both (or all) parties.

Is PR another Name of Activism Today?

Activism today still has hostilities, sit-downs, strikes, and non-compliance or non-obedience methods. However, the face of activism is changing. By the mere presence and power of activism as a process, there is a better balance of power today in the society. If you look at the history, all major positive changes are directly owned to activism, i.e. environmentalism, women’s right, LGBT rights, anti-Vietnam War, etc. Activists can safely be named as the greatest agent for societal change (Holtzhausen, 2012).

Without activists and the pressure for righting the wrong the world would be clearly exposed and overcome by stagnation, repression and to a great extent inertia (Demetrious 2013). In many ways, activism has become the process that nourishes and upholds democracy.

Of course, there is always the danger of glorifying activism at the expense of PR, one being for the good of the society while the other serving its own self-interests by definition, but it is not that simple. As seen from the above example – the “Robi Damelin Forgiveness” Project – sometimes activism can start as persuasion PR (asymmetrical), ends up as dialogue and participative PR (symmetrical) merging one aspect into the other quite seamlessly.

Conclusion

Activism as we see it today is indeed inclusive of PR. Like in the past, activists still seek to be heard and to bring about changes in the society for the larger good (Zoller 2009) but, today it is often based on a wider range of public communication, which include more often than not a good number of the “opposite party members” if not all and it aims at dialogue and participatory approach more rather than head-on collision. The activism today are co-creators of relationships between public and the larger powers and cover larger perspective, historical contextualisation, and understanding.

There is a stronger effort boosted by the social media and today’s communication technologies to link public relations to social change, social theories, social movement theories, digital media theories and ideologies where communication becomes a peaceful weapon for effectual equity and equality in global context.

Not all agree that activism has become today a legitimate PR practice, which is vital and necessary for a healthy functioning society. While some researchers see activism and PR as inclusive aspects in socially responsible corporates and list them as equal and complementary players (Holtzhausen 2007), some are not so much convinced stating that activism is too dynamic to completely understand its connect to PR in particular and society at large.

To sum it up, today PR has been subsumed by activism, which become interdisciplinary and a cross-fertilization force for upholding democracy on a global scale.

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PR VS Activism. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/pr-vs-activism/
“PR VS Activism.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/pr-vs-activism/
PR VS Activism. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/pr-vs-activism/> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2022].
PR VS Activism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2022 Dec 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/pr-vs-activism/
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