Public Relations and Pseudo Events

Daniel Boorstin came up with the term called pseudo events. The historian Daniel J. Boorstin came up with the term “pseudo-event” in his work “The Image”, first published in 1961. A pseudo-event, Boorstin wrote, is “not spontaneous … but planned, planted, or incited”–an event whose “occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media,” and whose “relation to the underlying reality of the situation is ambiguous.” source :

  In an example which illustrates what Boorstin meant :

“The owners of a hotel, in an illustration offered by Edward L. Bernays in his pioneer Crystallizing Public Opinion[1923], consult a public relations counsel. They ask how to increase their hotel’s prestige and so improve their business.

“In less sophisticated times, the answer might have been to hire a new chef, to improve the plumbing, to paint the rooms, or to install a new crystal chandelier in the lobby.


“The public relations counsel’s technique is more indirect. He proposes that the management stage a celebration of the hotel’s thirtieth anniversary. A committee is formed, including a prominent banker, a leading society matron, a well-known lawyer, an influential preacher, and aneventis planned [say a banquet] to call attention to the distinguished service the hotel has been rendering the community. The celebration is held, photographs are taken, the occasion is widely reported, and the object is accomplished.”

To this Boorstin explains as he thinks it is a pseudo event. He says,

“Now this occasion is a pseudo-event, and will illustrate all the essential features of pseudo-events.

“This celebration, we can see at the outset, is somewhat — but not entirely — misleading. Presumably the public relations counsel would not have been able to form his committee of prominent citizens if the hotel had not actually been rendering service to the community. On the other hand, if the hotel’s services had been all that important, instigation by public relations counsel might not have been necessary.


“Once the celebration has been held, the celebration itself becomes evidence that the hotel really is a distinguished institution. The occasion actually gives the hotel the prestige to which it is pretending.


“It is obvious, too, that the value of such a celebration to the owners depends on its being photographed and reported in newspapers, magazines, newsreels, on radio, and over television. It is the report that gives the event its force in the minds of potential customers.”


Press conferences are a common example of pseudo-events.Pseudo-events are staged to attract media attention.The media is informed well in time so they can prepare for reporting on it. “Spontaneous (or “genuine”) events are never, or hardly ever, influenced by the mass media.” It is important to note here that though such events may not be influenced by media they could have news value and be vital for the media to report .


Are we so media dependent that pseudo events seem to be the only way to get attention? what about non-media activities? Can these be added a little more as part of strategic communication, both by corporations and NGOs alike, so that public relations is looked at a little differently? what do you think?



I remember when one of my students was keen on doing her thesis on something to do with photography. Now as she was in the domain of public relations as that was the Master subject, I suggested her to work on Photo PR. So basically how do companies create images about themselves via their pictures on their galleries on their website or through newspapers. The study was extensive and today she holds a post of a Photo PR executive in a reputed agency, a post especially created for this domain.

Images play a major role in defining an organisation’s image. If we take this one step further videos play another role in creation of images. A moving image with sound. Capturing emotions, feelings through sound and movement, an added component in moving images. A holistic experience of the object. Public relations students and practitioners can take the help of these moving images to create the image they want to about their client. Readily available video cameras and camera softwares available on apple and android devices is making the work easier.

Now I need not be a photo or movie editor to work on these pictures and images. There are plenty of softwares available to edit pictures via Picsart and now even shoot small films to describe my client’s work. I came across this very useful software calledVine  which is a mobile app created by Twitter to create and post small video clippings. But right now it is only available for apple devices. But android mobile phone users can use Viddy  for the same purpose.Vine  helps you shoot for 6 seconds and post the video to Facebook and Twitter accounts. Whereas Viddy lets you shoot for 15 seconds and lets you add effects to your video and post it to Twitter and Facebook. All this work can be done on your smartphone or tablets. This also indicates something very important;  the growing use of smartphones and tablets and its easy accessibility.

The idea is that if I am getting an opportunity to shoot a video of the object concerned and upload it in real time it can be more of value as compared to something appearing later, due to delay in editing. Some quick videos can be more than enough. And will not look like an ad. Time has come where people may not have the time to read long paragraphs but will not miss out a well placed and well clicked picture or an attractive video clip. Of course keeping in mind the various logistics issues and the digital divide, this article stresses on the need for PR practitioners to create content on the go.

Defining Public Relations in India in 2013

This blog is out of complete curiosity. Was taking some sessions on defining public relations with students. It made me want to know, how do current practitioners in this profession would like to define it in the year 2013.

Some older definitions are like this. The U.S. perspective : Cutlip, Center and Broom (2006: 5): ‘Public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends.’

However in the UK the definition is a little diffferent. According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) it is : ‘[Public relations] is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics’ ( 

This leaves out the the term ‘management’ as seen in the American counterpart.
So how is the definition of public relations in India being coined?

Is it something different from the above two or similar? Would love to know your views.


Role of Agenda Building in Public Relations

The term Agenda Building as explained by Cobb & Elder, 1971, 1972,1983,Cobb, Ross & Ross, 1976) is that it examines public participation in such a way that various kinds of publics in a population become aware and participate in political conflicts.(Cobb et al., 1976, pg 126) further add that it is a process by which voice of many in the population can catch attention of the public officials. This may be done to accomplish some serious policy change.
The term agenda can be explained as “ a general set of political controversies that will be views as falling within the range of political concerns meriting concerns of the polity.” (Cobb & Elder, 1971, pg 905).There are two types of agenda clearly specified: public and formal. The public agenda consists of “a) subjects of widespread attention and awareness b) perceived of requiring action and c) appropriate concern of some governmental unit.”
The formal agenda refers to the set of issues that decision makers have already formally considered for serious consideration. So any issue that is raised from a governmental body will be a part of the formal agenda.
Johnson et al., 1996 give an interesting insight where budding public relations professionals can take a cue from. They say “it is a collective and reciprocal process where the press, public and public officials influence one another and are at the same time influenced by one another.” They came up with a four-stage model for agenda building “1) real-world conditions starts off the agenda building process; 2) news media increases coverage of the issue; 3) the public picks up signs from real-world conditions and media coverage; and finally 4) the opinion leader reacts upon public concern”. Take all examples that we have seen in the recent past such as the emergence of the swine flu, bird flu etc. If you look at these issues they have all had a similar pattern. The way they started and were later on ‘treated’ by all the parties concerned .It explains how any issue  that which is of public concern is usually handled. Here we have to keep in mind that events though begin with being news events may turn out to be pseudo news events as explained in my earlier blogs.
Would you like to contribute to the above?
Handbook of public relations
 By Robert Lawrence Heath, Gabriel M. Vasquez
Public relations theory II
 By Carl H. Botan, Vincent Hazleton
Research paper “International Agenda-Building and Agenda-Setting: Exploring the Influence of Public Relations Counsel on News Media and Public Perceptions of Foreign Nations” A Manuscript submitted to the Public Relations Division for the annual International
Communication Association conference in New York, NY, to be held on May 26-30, 2005

The Public Relations Guru

PR agencies and Public Relations departments in companies offer crucial image building services to their clients.Their role to improve, enhance the image of their clients is most important. There are various functions like publicity, media relations, lobbying, event management, internal and external communications etc. which are routine.
But the most important role would be that of a consultant, a guide who can see the potential of the client and make them improve or enhance their image. Here he helps the client to use his own talent and expertise to the benefit of the organisation and society at large.Now here I do not mean manipulation or any other such works which also aids in creation of pseudo events and thus pseudo images.
Sometimes it is seen that a client himself doesnt realise his true worth and is stuck in the cycle of publicity and pseudo events which usually does bring some press coverages but its value lasts for a short while.
It is the role of a PR advisor, consultant who helps manifest the potential of his client and helps him grow in his career or business.
The practitioner is therefore a mentor, a guide and a friend who stands by the client in all times and has the courage to speak up to his client when he is going wrong.
Maybe then the client-agency relationship or the PR department-company relationship will go beyond that of an executive or a manager. Maybe then PR relations practitioners will be seen as ‘Gurus’ and not mere publicists.
I am sure it is not simple and sometimes not realistic as it sounds.What could be the obstacles? What do you think?

From my blogpost

Public Relations: A Career Choice

I was thinking about issues to write in PR education when this question struck me “How do people make the choice of pursuing a career in public relations?” Is it accidental or a well thought off option? If it is accidental then how was the experience of entering this profession? If it is by choice, do you regret it? Or you are happy and comfortable in this profession and would love to grow in this job.

These questions popped into my head, as this is something I ask a candidate planning to join this course. Sometimes I have been told by these candidates that we have had public relations as a subject and advertising as a specialisation while pursuing their graduation, so I would like to do this course. Or there will be some working professionals saying that it helps in promotion so they would like to do this course. Or yet others, simply decided to plunge into a new field. Like I have had candidates, who have done a graduation in Economics and who would like to join Public Relations at the Master level.

So these choices are tough. Either if you have simply come to into this profession either with a journalist, marketing, administration background without any academic knowledge in this subject or you are a student with or without previous knowledge of this subject in his/her graduation or post-graduation tenure.

But I am sure all of you would agree this is one subject which is still gaining recognition, at least in India, and it is definitely not something you dreamt of becoming, when you were a child. Cannot blame you, you didn’t know, that it existed or what it was.

So I am sure whatever the reason of the plunge into this profession it would be great to share your experience in this field whether as a student or as a practitioner as to how has your journey has been? Would you like to add your bit to make this journey for you and for others a better one? So that hopefully a child tomorrow may dream of becoming a public relations practitioner, the way h/she dreams of being in other professions.

Would love to know your views.

Technology and the Budding PR Practitioner

I remember sometime back when one of my students was refused a job at a PR agency because she did not possess a Blackberry phone. The reason given was, how could she then maintain contacts much needed in the PR profession?

I also noticed the increase of endorsement requests on LinkedIn from current and previous batch students to elaborate on their educational and communication skills.

Thus Blackberry and LinkedIn have become important tools to show that you have arrived as a professional.

Facebook so far seems untouched by prospective employers as otherwise the young budding practitioners would be more alert before posting random status messages and pictures. Or worse be found playing games.

Twitter is still used as a medium to speak out on issues, if you go by the “trending” issues. Again, doesn’t seem to be under the scrutiny list.

YouTube could be used for uploading fun videos by students. Are they checked?

These products of technology have quietly entered our lives and somehow have becomes an extension of ourselves which could be under scrutiny by future employers. How many of these tools or more such tools are being used by employers in India to study prospective employees? Do students need to be trained to use this sites more carefully in the future? What are your thoughts?

source: my blog article


Media Analysis and Evaluation

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In a 1966 lecture at the Kaufman Art Gallery in New York City, McLuhan said, “The medium is the massage, not the message. It really works us over; it really takes hold and massages the population in a savage way.” … Continue reading