The 4P’s of Autocracy & why we need PR

Autocracies seem to be on the rise and they use tools to influence the world, just like marketing uses tools to influence the market. This asks for a defence by liberal democracies. Public Relations could be a tool for this.

4P’s of Marketing

We all know the 4P’s of marketing – tools to influence the market:

  • Product,
  • Price,
  • Place,
  • Promotion.

4 P’s of Autocracy

Now we can see that autocracies use their own 4P’s to shape a society:

  • Politics,
  • Police (including Justice),
  • Power (army and economy),
  • Propaganda.

4 P’s of Liberal Democracy

Liberal Democracies can defend the free market and a free society with the following4 P’s:

  • Politics,
  • Police (including Justice),
  • Power (army and economy),
  • Public Relations.

Propaganda versus Public Relations

Propaganda is one-way communication, with the intention to influence what people think and feel. Propaganda is similar to Advertisement, but Advertisement serves the goals of a company, whereas Propaganda serves the goals of a government.

Public Relations, on the other hand, aims at relations – as the term suggests – between an organisation and its publics (audiences, stakeholders, target groups: people). In order to maintain a good relation, the organisation has to listen to the people and adapt to them.

Autocrats do not want to listen but to influence people. They do not want to adapt, the people should adapt.

Liberal Democracies need to make better use of Public Relations

Ask students who is the president of Russia and they all know it is Putin. Ask them who is the president of the USA and half of them does not know.

The EU is still the largest investor on the Balkans, but most of its citizens think it is China, as a result of their effective propaganda.

A positive attitude towards something, starts with knowledge about the good characteristics of it. (According to the classic domino-model of communication effects, see below.) Therefore Liberal Democracies – such as the EU – should promote themselves better: make themselves better known and tell positive stories. People can’t love what they don’t know.

Domino-model of Communication Effects (Grunig & Hunt 1984)

Be Good & Tell It

The basic rule for Public Relations is: Be Good & Tell It. So – just like Propaganda – Public Relations deals with sending positive messages. But it assumes that the sender is good. Therefore Public Relations professionals should advice the organisation that it should adapt to what people want, or even do what people want, before they ask for it. For example child labour is bad publicity. An organisation could counter it with massive and positive Advertisement, or it can adapt and abolish child labour. The latter is what Public Relation professionals should advice.

So, Public Relations professionals should maintain a dialogue between the organisation and its publics, thus promoting a good relation.

This Public Relations principle of maintaining a dialogue goes with a democracy, where politicians receive feedback and adapt to what people want. Propaganda goes better with an autocracy, where people in power force their will upon people without power.


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