Facemasks make a useful propaganda tool

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – PUBLIC RELATIONS: Have you considered the use of props to help make your communications more persuasive? Here’s an example of how props can unlock the power of pre-persuasion. 

Whether facemasks do or don’t have a health benefit is one debate, but they also serve another purpose – as a very effective communications device and propaganda tool.  Facemasks keep us from complacency and remind us we live in a pandemic world (the dangers of Covid-19 are real; we only have to look to India to know that).

Propaganda posters were powerful persuasion tools.

However, facemasks may also help condition us to comply with Government demands that not so long ago, the free world considered intrusive – not only are we policed, we police each other with facemasks.

During times of war, democracies have had to put aside some personal freedoms to achieve victory. The issue is not so much whether it is justified or not, but that we are vigilant enough to make the call either way when the time comes.

There’s a World War Two poster that reads: “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler. Join a car-sharing club today”. The use of propaganda posters during World War Two were incredibly influential in gaining compliance. One of the reasons was what the posters – like masks – are tools of ‘pre-persuasion’ (the things you do first to prepare your audience to be more accepting of your message).

When you set out to persuade an audience to accept an idea, concept or thing, your communications should begin with pre-persuasion, which is to establish common ground, what everybody knows and already takes for granted.

In the case of Covid-19, we all accept that the virus is highly contagious. By communicating this already accepted fact to your audience, you’ve taken the first step in effective persuasion. Once your audience agrees with the first part of your message, it becomes easier to get them to accept the messaging or ideas that follow.

Wearing facemasks is enforced by both regulatory and social compliance. After conflicting messages at the start of the pandemic, most health authorities now agree that they are effective in helping prevent the spread of Covid-19.

When we look back to our World War 2 parallels, we also find a post-war population that was unusually compliant with what Government’s wanted from them – they were the sensible generation. It took the post-war Baby Boomers to question the status quo. Will we be the same, I wonder? At the moment, I’m in the ‘justified’ corner.

Have you considered the use of props to make your communications more effective?

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