As public speakers we have tremendous influence over the behavior, opinions and decisions of people. When our words are a vehicle for propaganda, they can become dangerous but this isn’t always the case. Public speakers have used propaganda to influence people in topics ranging from joining the war effort to stop smoking to beautifying the nation.
Originating from an old English term “to propagate,” the purpose of propaganda is to plant ideas to influence attitudes for a specific cause. Public speakers use a variety of techniques.
Here are some common propaganda methods:
• Appeal to fear
This plays on people’s fear, building support by instilling anxieties and panic in the general population.
This is a method of persuading people to do something by telling them others are doing it.
One of the most common forms of propaganda in the public speaking realm, testimonials use the words of a famous person to persuade you.
This technique uses the names or pictures of famous people, but not direct quotations.
In this type the product name is repeated at least four times.
• Emotional words
Public speakers often use words that will evoke emotions, making you feel strongly about someone or something.
Propaganda is frequently used in political speeches and during times of war, when it is an especially powerful weapon. Speakers used it to dehumanize and create hatred toward an enemy by creating a false image in the mind. This is achieved by using offensive or racist terms, evading certain words or by making allegations of enemy atrocities.
One of the most notorious abuses of propaganda in public speaking contributed to Hitler’s surge to power in Nazi Germany during World War II. British speakers employed their own propaganda campaign to portray the Germans as bloodthirsty, murderous Huns, gaining public support for the war. In America Rosie the Riveter pleaded with women to take on the jobs of men who were fighting the war.
Other instances when public speakers used propaganda to influence people.
• It’s been used in many public health recommendations such as getting flu shots, quitting smoking and losing weight.
• Political speakers often encourage citizens to participate in a census or election.
• Advertisers hire speakers to promote their products to convey their message.
Propaganda has left an indelible stamp on history. Undoubtedly, it’s destined to influence future generations, as well.