Engineering_of_consent

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					                    The Engineering of Consent
                              Bv EDWARD L. BERNAYS



F     REEDOM of speech and its demo-
      cratic corollary, a free press, have
 tacitly expanded our Bill of Rights to
                                               pamphlets is published annually. The
                                               country is blanketed with billboards,
                                               handbills, throwaways, and direct mail
 include the right of persuasion. This         advertising. Round tables, panels and
 development was an inevitable result          forums, classrooms and legislative as-
 of the expansion of the media of free         semblies, and public platforms—any
 speech and persuasion, denned in other        and all media, day after day, spread
 articles in this volume. All these media      the word, someone's word.
 provide open doors to the public mind.           On the second level there are the spe-
 Any one of us through these media may         cialized media owned and operated by
 influence the attitudes and actions of        the many organized groups in this coun-
 our fellow citizens.                          try. Almost all such groups (and many
    The tremendous expansion of com-           of their subdivisions) have their own
 munications in the United States has          communications systems. They dis-
 given this Nation the world's most pene-      seminate ideas not only by means of
 trating and effective apparatus for the       the formal written word in labor papers,
 transmission of ideas. Every resident         house organs, special bulletins, and the
 is constantly exposed to the impact of        like, but also through lectures, meetings,
 our vast network of communications            discussions, and rank-and-file conversa-
 which reach every corner of the coun-         tions.
 try, no matter how remote or isolated.
 Words hammer continually at the eyes          LEADERSHIP THROUGH COMMUNICATION
 and ears of America. The United States          This web of communications, some-
 has become a small room in which a           times duplicating, crisscrossing, and
 single whisper is magnified thousands        overlapping, is a condition of fact, not
 of times.                                    theory. We must recognize the sig-
    Knowledge of how to use this enor-        nificance of modern communications not
 mous amplifying system becomes a            only as a highly organized mechanical
 matter of primary concern to those who      web but as a potent force for social
 are interested in socially constructive     good or possible evil. We can deter-
 action.                                     mine whether this network shall be em-
    There are two main divisions of this     ployed to its greatest extent for sound
 communications system which maintain        social ends.
social cohesion. On the first level there        For only by mastering the techniques
are the commercial media. Almost 1,800       of communication can leadership be
daily newspapers in the United States        exercised fruitfully in the vast complex
have a combined circulation of around        that is modern democracy in the United
44,000,000. There are approximately          States. In an earlier age, in a soci-
10,000 weekly newspapers and almost          ety that was small geographically and
6,000 magazines. Approximately 2,000         with a more homogeneous population, a
radio stations of various types broad-       leader was usually known to his fol-
cast to the Nation's 60,000,000 receiv-      lowers personally; there was a visual
ing sets. Approximately 16,500 motion        relationship between them. Communi-
picture houses have a capacity of almost     cation was accomplished principally by
10,500,000. A deluge of books and            personal announcement to an audience
                                         113
114                T H E ANNALS OF T H E AMERICAN ACADEMY

or through a relatively primitive print-     edge of the situation and on the appli-
ing press. Books, pamphlets, and news-       cation of scientific principles and tried
papers reached a very small literate         practices to the task of getting people
segment of the public.                       to support ideas and programs. Any
   We are tired of hearing repeated the      person or organization depends ulti-
threadbare cliche "The world has grown       mately on public approval, and is there-
smaller"; but this so-called truism is       fore faced with the problem of engi-
not actually true, by any means. The         neering the public's consent to a pro-
world has grown both smaller and very        gram or goal. We expect our elected
much larger. Its physical frontiers          government officials to try to engineer
have been expanded. Today's leaders          our consent—through the network of
have become more remote physically           communications open to them—for the
from the public; yet, at the same time,      measures they propose. We reject gov-
the public has much greater familiarity      ernment authoritarianism or regimenta-
with these leaders through the system        tion, but we are willing to take action
of modern communications. Leaders            suggested to us by the written or
are just as potent today as ever.            spoken word. The engineering of con-
   In turn, by use of this system, which     sent is the very essence of the demo-
has constantly expanded as a result of       cratic process, the freedom to persuade
technological improvement, leaders have      and suggest. The freedoms of speech,
been able to overcome the problems of        press, petition, and assembly, the free-
geographical distance and social stratifi-   doms which make the engineering of
cation to reach their publics. Under-        consent possible, are among the most
lying much of this expansion, and            cherished guarantees of the Constitu-
largely the reason for its existence in      tion of the United States.
its present form, has been widespread           The engineering of consent should be
and enormously rapid diffusion of            based theoretically and practically on
literacy.                                    the complete understanding of those
   Leaders may be the spokesmen for          whom it attempts to win over. But it
many different points of view. They          is sometimes impossible to reach joint
may direct the activities of major or-       decisions based on an understanding of
ganized groups such as industry, labor,      facts by all the people. The average
or units of government. They may             American adult has only six years of
compete with one another in battles for      schooling behind him. With pressing
public good will; or they may, repre-        crises and decisions to be faced, a leader
senting divisions within the larger units,   frequently cannot wait for the people
compete among themselves. Such lead-         to arrive at even general understanding.
ers, with the aid of technicians in the      In certain cases, democratic leaders
field who have specialized in utilizing      must play their part in leading the pub-
the channels of communication, have          lic through the engineering of consent
been able to accomplish purposefully         to socially constructive goals and values.
and scientifically what we have termed       This role naturally imposes upon them
"the engineering of consent."                the obligation to use the educational
                                             processes, as well as other available
      T H E ENGINEERING APPROACH             techniques, to bring about as complete
                                             an understanding as possible.
  This phrase quite simply means the            Under no circumstances should the
use of an engineering approach—that is,      engineering of consent supersede or dis-
action based only on thorough knowl-         place the functions of the educational
                         T H E ENGINEERING OF CONSENT                             115

system, either formal or informal, in       audiences. Even the direct, or what
bringing about understanding by the         might be called the old-fashioned,
people as a basis for their action. The     method of speaking to an audience is
engineering of consent often does sup-      for the most part once removed; for
plement the educational process. If         usually public speech is transmitted,
higher general educational standards        mechanically, through the mass media
were to prevail in this country and the     of radio, motion pictures, and television.
general level of public knowledge and          During World War I, the famous
understanding were raised as a result,      Committee on Public Information, or-
this approach would still retain its        ganized by George Creel, dramatized in
value.                                      the public's consciousness the effective-
   Even in a society of a perfectionist     ness of the war of words. The Com-
educational standard, equal progress        mittee helped to build the morale of
would not be achieved in every field.       our own people, to win over the neu-
There would always be time lags, blind      trals, and to disrupt the enemy. It
spots, and points of weakness; and the      helped to win that war. But by com-
engineering of consent would still be       parison with the enormous scope of
essential. The engineering of consent       word warfare in World War II, the
will always be needed as an adjunct to,     Committee on Public Information used
or a partner of, the educational process.   primitive tools to do an important job.
                                            The Office of War Information alone
IMPORTANCE OF ENGINEERING CONSENT           probably broadcast more words over its
   Today it is impossible to overesti-      short-wave facilities during the war
mate the importance of engineering con-     than were written by all of George
sent; it affects almost every aspect of     Creel's staff.
our daily lives. When used for social          As this approach came to be recog-
purposes, it is among our most valuable     nized as the key factor in influencing
contributions to the efficient function-    public thought, thousands of experts in
ing of modern society. The techniques       many related fields came to the fore—
can be subverted; demagogues can uti-       such specialists as editors, publishers,
lize the techniques for antidemocratic      advertising men, heads of pressure
purposes with as much success as can        groups and political parties, educators,
those who employ them for socially de-      and publicists. During World War I
sirable ends. The responsible leader, to    and the immediate postwar years a new
accomplish social objectives, must there-   profession developed in response to the
fore be constantly aware of the possi-      demand for trained, skilled specialists
bilities of subversion. He must apply       to advise others on the technique of en-
his energies to mastering the operational   gineering public consent, a profession
know-how of consent engineering, and        providing counsel on public relations.
to out-maneuvering his opponents in
the public interest.                            T H E PROFESSIONAL VIEWPOINT
   It is clear that a leader in a democ-       In 1923 I defined this profession in
racy need not always possess the per-       my book, Crystallizing Public Opinion,
sonal qualities of a Daniel Webster or      and in the same year, at New York Uni-
a Henry Clay. He need not be visible        versity, gave the first course on the sub-
or even audible to his audiences. He        ject. In the almost quarter-century
may lead indirectly, simply by effec-       that has elapsed since then, the profes-
tively using today's means of making        sion has become a recognized one in
contact with the eyes and ears of those     this country and has spread to other
116                 T H E ANNALS OF T H E AMERICAN ACADEMY

democratic countries where free com-          ject to possible change after research;
munication and competition of ideas in        specifically, what is to be accomplished,
the market place are permitted. The           with whom and through whom;
profession has its literature, its training      4. Research of the public to learn
courses, an increasing number of prac-        why and how it acts, both individually
titioners, and a growing recognition of       and as a group.
social responsibility.                           Only after this preliminary ground-
   In the United States, the profession       work has been firmly laid is it possible
deals specifically with the problems of       to know whether the objectives are re-
relationship between a group and its          alistically attainable. Only then can
public. Its chief function is to analyze      the engineer of consent utilize his re-
objectively and realistically the position    sources of manpower, money, and time,
of its client vis-a-vis a public and to ad-   and the media available. Strategy, or-
vise as to the necessary corrections in       ganization, and activities will be geared
its client's attitudes toward and ap-         to the realities of the situation.
proaches to that public. It is thus an           The task must first be related to the
instrument for achieving adjustment if        budget available for manpower and
any maladjustment in relationships ex-        mechanics. In terms of human assets,
ists. It must be remembered of course         the consent engineer has certain talents
that good will, the basis of lasting ad-      —creative, administrative, executive—
justment, can be preserved in the long        and he must know what these are. He
run only by those whose actions war-          should also have a clear knowledge of
rant it. But this does not prevent those      his limitations. The human assets need
who do not deserve good will from win-        to be implemented by work space and
ning it and holding onto it long enough       office equipment. All material needs
to do a lot of damage.                        must be provided by budget.
   The public relations counsel has a            Above all else, once the budget has
professional responsibility to push only      been established, and before a first step
those ideas he can respect, and not to        is taken, the field of knowledge dealing
promote causes or accept assignments          with the subject should be thoroughly
for clients he considers antisocial.          explored. This is primarily a matter
                                              of collecting and codifying a store of
        PLANNING A CAMPAIGN                   information so that it will be available
   Just as the civil engineer must ana-       for practical, efficient use. This pre-
lyze every element of the situation be-       liminary work may be tedious and ex-
fore he builds a bridge, so the engineer      acting, but it cannot be by-passed; for
of consent, in order to achieve a worth-      the engineer of consent should be power-
while social objective, must operate          fully equipped with facts, with truths,
from a foundation of soundly planned          with evidence, before he begins to show
action. Let us assume that he is en-          himself before a public.
gaged in a specific task. His plans              The consent engineer should provide
must be based on four prerequisites:          himself with the standard reference
   1. Calculation of resources, both hu-      books on public relations, publicity,
man and physical; i.e., the manpower,         public opinion: N. W. Ayer & Son's
the money, and the time available for         Directory of Newspapers and Periodi-
the purpose;                                  cals, the Editor and Publisher Year
   2. As thorough knowledge of the sub-       Book, the Radio Daily Annual, the
ject as possible;                             Congressional Directory, the Chicago
   3. Determination of objectives, sub-       Daily News Almanac, the World Al~
                         T H E ENGINEERING OF CONSENT                             117

manac—and, of course, the telephone          ideas—from whom to whom? To what
book. (The World Almanac, for ex-            extent do authority, factual evidence,
ample, contains lists of many of the         precision, reason, tradition, and emotion
thousands of associations in the United      play a part in the acceptance of these
States—a cross section of the coun-          ideas?
try.) These and other volumes pro-              The public's attitudes, assumptions,
vide a basic library necessary to effec-     ideas, or prejudices result from definite
tive planning.                               influences. One must try to find out
   At this point in the preparatory work,    what they are in any situation in which
the engineer of consent should consider      one is working.
the objectives of his activity. He              If the engineer of consent is to plan
should have clearly in mind at all           effectively, he must also know the group
times precisely where he is going and        formations with which he is to deal, for
what he wishes to accomplish. He may         democratic society is actually only a
intensify already existing favorable at-     loose aggregate of constituent groups.
titudes; he may induce those holding         Certain individuals with common social
favorable attitudes to take constructive     and/or professional interests form vol-
action; he may convert disbelievers; he      untary groups. These include such
may disrupt certain antagonistic points      great professional organizations as those
of view.                                     of doctors, lawyers, nurses, and the
   Goals should be defined exactly. In       like; the trade associations; the farm
a Red Cross drive, for example, a time       associations and labor unions; the
limit and the amount of money to be          women's clubs; the religious groups;
raised are set from the start. Much          and the thousands of clubs and frater-
better results are obtained in a relief      nal associations. Formal groups, such
drive when the appeal is made for aid        as political units, may range from or-
to the people of a specific country or       ganized minorities to the large amor-
locality rather than of a general area      .phous political bodies that are our two
such as Europe or Asia.                      major parties. There is today even
                                             another category of the public group
        STUDYING THE PUBLIC                  which must be kept in mind by the en-
                                             gineer of consent. The readers of the
   The objective must at all times be re-    New Republic or the listeners to Ray-
lated to the public whose consent is to      mond Swing's program are as much vol-
be obtained. That public is people, but      untary groups, although unorganized,
what do they know? What are their            as are the members of a trade union or
present attitudes toward the situation       a Rotary Club.
with which the consent engineer is con-         To function well, almost all organized
cerned? What are the impulses which         groups elect or select leaders who usu-
govern these attitudes? What ideas are       ally remain in a controlling position for
the people ready to absorb? What are         stated intervals of time. These leaders
they ready to do, given an effective        reflect their followers' wishes and work
stimulant? Do they get their ideas           to promote their interests. In a demo-
from bartenders, letter carriers, wait-     cratic society, they can only lead them
resses, Little Orphan Annie, or the edi-    as far as, and in the direction in which,
torial page of the New York Times?          they want to go. To influence the pub-
What group leaders or opinion molders       lic, the engineer of consent works with
effectively influence the thought process   and through group leaders and opinion
of what followers? What is the flow of      molders on every level.
118                 T H E ANNALS OF T H E AMERICAN ACADEMY

                                              and motion picture people can be per-
VALUE AND TECHNIQUES OF RESEARCH              suaded to discuss with the consent en-
   To achieve accurate working knowl-         gineer his objectives and the appeals
edge of the receptivity of the public         and angles that affect these leaders and
mind to an idea or ideas, it is neces-        their audiences. The local unions or
sary to engage in painstaking research.       associations of barbers, railwaymen,
Such research should aim to establish a       clothing workers, and taxicab drivers
common denominator between the re-            may be willing to co-operate in the un-
searcher and the public. It should dis-       dertaking. Grass-roots leaders are im-
close the realities of the objective situa-   portant.
tion in which the engineer of consent            Such a survey has a double-barreled
has to work. Completed, it provides a         effect. The engineer of consent learns
blueprint of action and clarifies the         what group leaders know and do not
question of who does what, where,             know, the extent to which they will co-
when, and why. It will indicate the           operate with him, the media that reach
over-all strategy to be employed, the         them, appeals that may be valid, and
themes to be stressed, the organization       the prejudices, the legends, or the facts
needed, the use of media, and the day-        by which they live. He is able simul-
to-day tactics. It should further indi-       taneously to determine whether or not
cate how long it will take to win the         they will conduct informational cam-
public and what are the short- and long-      paigns in their own right, and thus sup-
term trends of public thinking. It will       plement his activities.
disclose subconscious and conscious mo-
tivations in public thought, and the ac-      THEMES, STRATEGY, AND ORGANIZATION
tions, words, and pictures that effect           Now that the preliminary work has
these motivations. It will reveal pub-        been done, it will be possible to pro-
lic awareness, the low or high visibility     ceed to actual planning. From the sur-
of ideas in the public mind.                  vey of opinion will emerge the major
   Research may indicate the necessity        themes of strategy. These themes con-
to modify original objectives, to en-         tain the ideas to be conveyed; they
large or contract the planned goal, or        channel the lines of approach to the
to change actions and methods. In             public; and they must be expressed
short, it furnishes the equivalent of the     through whatever media are used. The
mariner's chart, the architect's blue-        themes are ever present but intangible—
print, the traveler's road map.               comparable to what in fiction is called
   Public opinion research may be con-        the "story line."
ducted by questionaires, by personal             To be successful, the themes must
interviews, or by polls. Contact can be       appeal to the motives of the public.
made with business leaders, heads of          Motives are the activation of both con-
trade associations, trade union officials,    scious and subconscious pressures cre-
and educational leaders, all of whom          ated by the force of desires. Psycholo-
may be willing to aid the engineer of         gists have isolated a number of com-
consent. The heads of professional            pelling appeals, the validity of which
groups in the communities—the medi-           has been repeatedly proved in practical
cal association, the architects, the engi-    application.
neers—all should be queried. So should           Once the themes are established, in
social service executives, officials of       what kind of a campaign are they to be
women's clubs, and religious leaders.         used? The situation may call for a
Editors, publishers, and radio station        blitzkrieg or a continuing battle, a com-
                         T H E ENGINEERING OF CONSENT                             119

bination of both, or some other strategy.    activities will be on the written and
It may be necessary to develop a plan        spoken word, geared to the media and
of action for an election that will be       designed for the audiences he is ad-
over in a few weeks or months, or for        dressing. He must be sure that his ma-
a campaign that may take years, such         terial fits his public. He must prepare
as the effort to cut down the tuberculo-     copy written in simple language and
sis death rate. Planning for mass per-       sixteen-word sentences for the average
suasion is governed by many factors          school-age public. Some copy will be
that call upon all one's powers of train-    aimed at the understanding of people
ing, experience, skill, and judgment.        who have had seventeen years of school-
Planning should be flexible and provide      ing. He must familiarize himself with
for changed conditions.                      all media and know how to supply them
   When the plans have been perfected,       with material suitable in quantity and
organization of resources follows, and it    quality.
must be undertaken in advance to pro-           Primarily, however, the engineer of
vide the necessary manpower, money,          consent must create news. News is not
and physical equipment. Organization         an inanimate thing. It is the overt act
also correlates the activities of any spe-   that makes news, and news in turn
cialists who may be called upon from         shapes the attitudes and actions of peo-
time to time, such as opinion research-      ple. A good criterion as to whether
ers, fund raisers, publicity men, radio      something is or is not news is whether
and motion picture experts, specialists      the event juts out of the pattern of
for women's clubs and foreign language       routine. The developing of events and
groups, and the like.                        circumstances that are not routine is
                                             one of the basic functions of the engi-
             T H E TACTICS
                                             neer of consent. Events so planned can
  At this point it will be possible to       be projected over the communication
plan the tactics of the program, i.e., to    systems to infinitely more people than
decide how the themes are to be dis-         those actually participating, and such
seminated over the idea carriers, the        events vividly dramatize ideas for those
networks of communication.                   who do not witness the events.
   Do not think of tactics in terms of          The imaginatively managed event
segmental approaches. The problem is         can compete successfully with other
not to get articles into a newspaper or      events for attention.        Newsworthy
obtain radio time or arrange a motion        events, involving people, usually do not
picture newsreel; it is rather to set in     happen by accident. They are planned
motion a broad activity, the success of      deliberately to accomplish a purpose,
which depends on interlocking all phases     to influence our ideas and actions.
and elements of the proposed strategy,          Events may also be set up in chain
implemented by tactics that are timed        reaction. By harnessing the energies of
to the moment of maximum effective-          group leaders, the engineer of consent
ness. An action held over but one day        can stimulate them to set in motion ac-
may fall completely flat. Skilled and        tivities of their own. They will or-
imaginative timing has determined the        ganize additional, specialized, subsidary
success of many mass movements and           events, all of which will further drama-
campaigns, the familiar phenomena so         tize the basic theme.
typical of the American people's be-
havior pattern.                                            CONCLUSION
  Emphasis of the consent engineer's           Communication is the key to engi-
120                 T H E ANNALS OF T H E AMERICAN ACADEMY

neering consent for social action. But          When the public is convinced of the
it is not enough to get out leaflets and     soundness of an idea, it will proceed to
bulletins on the mimeograph machines,        action. People translate an idea into
to place releases in the newspapers, or      action suggested by the idea itself,
to fill the air waves with radio talks.      whether it is ideological, political, or
Words, sounds, and pictures accomplish       social. They may adopt a philosophy
little unless they are the tools of a        that stresses racial and religious toler-
soundly thought-out plan and carefully       ance; they may vote a New Deal into
organized methods. If the plans are          office; or they may organize a consum-
well formulated and the proper use is        ers' buying strike. But such results do
made of them, the ideas conveyed by          not just happen. In a democracy they
the words will become part and parcel        can be accomplished principally by the
of the people themselves.                    engineering of consent.

    Edward L. Bernays, New York City, in partnership with Doris E. Fleischman, is
counsel on public relations, a profession he was instrumental in founding. In that ca-
pacity he has served governments, trade associations, and profit and nonprofit organiza-
tions. He is author of Propaganda, Crystallizing Public Opinion, Speak Up for Democ-
racy, and Take Your Place at the Peace Table, and editor of Outline of Careers.

				
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