According to Perloff (2003) persuasion is seen to be a process in which the communicator tries to convince other people to change their behaviour or attitudes regarding a certain issue through a certain message. Whereas coercion is where the communicator uses improper use of authority, physical force, economic power and other ways to take advantage of other people so that the communicator gets their way (Business Dictionary 2015).
Image 1: Quote
Source: Zazzle (2015)
For PR professionals the line should be drawn at where the ethical manner/persuasion is about to be crossed, such as any message that is seemed to be forceful or any slight use of coercion as a method of convincing the audience to achieve their goals. PR messages are required to be truthful and honest, it is about building relationships with the public and if the PR professional are using coercion tactics by making the public feel bad, for example by not donating to a cause, this isn’t building a very good relationship with the public and therefore won’t achieve their objectives/goals (Wilcox et al. 2013).
Examples of ethical use of persuasion in PR is that the message should be accurate, complete, the material should be relevant, the information must be truthful and the facts are correct and therefore not being incorrect, misleading, forceful or threatening. Two companies that their PR campaigns do this well are Greenpeace and The Red Cross as they are persuading people to become more aware of the issues and are providing ways to take action or donate money to the causes rather than using tactics and persuasion to make people feel bad for not donating.
Business Dictionary 2014, Coercion, viewed 20 May 2015, http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/coercion.html#ixzz3aepqGnKt
Perloff, R 2003, The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century, 2nd ed., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New Jersey, viewed 20 May 2015, http://journalism.uoregon.edu/~tbivins/stratcomweb/readings/persuasion_def.pdf
Wilcox, DL, Cameron, GT, Reber, BH & Shin, JH 2013, Think: Public Relations, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Zazzle 2015, Coercion Gifts and Gift Ideas, viewed 20 May 2015, http://www.zazzle.com.au/coercion+gifts