There was spirited discussion this week at a program on climate change at Yale University. Keri Bolding, vice president of a nonprofit public relations firm, Resource Media, "discussed techniques of using scientific facts to persuade people to make environmentally conscious decisions before a crowd of roughly 40 students, professors and community members." Fair enough.
But what caught our attention about the evening was the Yale story noting that "Some environmental scientists in the audience raised concerns about the feasibility of arguing persuasively while also remaining factually accurate. One argued that a scientist's role is not to be a hero by relating information to the public, adding that persuasion inherently requires the skewing of facts."
Really? Never. Gaining an accurate understanding of climate change is crucial for our times, no matter how much patience it takes. If someone out of frustration "skews" some facts supposedly to speed things up, the reverse will happen. Controversy will deepen. That needs to be recognized as a basic public relations principle. Some members of the public may choke on reading this, but it's true. Good PR requires adherence to established understanding and principles. Don't mistake that, ever. Playing fast and loose with facts as a supposed PR technique is toxic. Persuasion requires accuracy. "PR" ought actually to stand for "persuasive relations." Again, persuasion requires truthfulness.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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