#PRINHISTORY: Propaganda Through Time.

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Without a doubt, it’s a word that you’ve heard of and have an idea of what it is. It’s something that gets slapped on everything from a suspicious tweet to a billboard. What exactly is propaganda? Where did it come from? Why does it exist?

Good thing you’re reading this.

Propaganda, believe it or not, started as a religious administrative body used to promote the Catholic church to non-Catholic people.10 Near the 1790s the term began being used for secular activities. It only got negative when politics and war got in the mix.

Propaganda was used heavily in both World War I and II in forms of recruitment and morale building. Images of “Support Our Troops!” and “Rosie the Riveter” come to the forefront of most people’s minds, but there also emotion hitting pieces such as the WWI poster where a little girl on her dad’s knee asking “What did you do in the great war, daddy?” (implying that this father did not go to the great war and should feel shame.)

These effective pieces of artwork put to a political-wartime space were meant to dehumanize the enemy and instill pride in your own country. As time grew, these grew more false and a lot more racist.

After these massive wars, propaganda took a turn to the business world. It’s not hard to imagine the stretch. It worked well for war, it should work well for the paper-making company. In all reality, propaganda in business was happening around the time of the wars, but took a different approach.

Sex appeal was a big factor in this propaganda. While it is still incredibly active in modern advertising, it was being used to sell random products. Ads for valve caps had pin-up girls on their ads for no reason or connection to the product, or a home journal that used a painting of a man and woman engaging in heavy petting.


One could easily look at the majority of ads today and see 1) Photoshop, 2) Flowery language or 3) as I told you about earlier, blatant lies companies put out to cater to certain demographics… then add in the bias that can be found on some news outlets… and you see the picture clearly.
What is also interesting is the spike in the use of the word “propaganda” had a massive spike in use during the time of the World Wars and then dropped off most likely due to the negative baggage it started to carry. It also proves that people are smart and will eventually call someone’s bluff.


Ethical PR doesn’t buy into the bullcrap of propaganda. History shows us it didn’t start out in a world of lies, but that’s what it’s turned into. It’s the dicey underbelly of the communications world and, like your parents used to tell you, everyone gets caught eventually.

Learn from history and don’t partake; it doesn’t lead to your success.




8 PWR 2016 Journalist Survey.

9 Rozdeba, Derrick. “Lies And The Declining Trust In Brands.” Branding Strategy Insider. N.p., 05 Jan. 2016. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

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