We all know about inner conflicts and cognitive dissonance – the stress of holding two contradictory ideas at the same time: I want something, but I know it’s bad for me. If we have willpower, we may decide not to eat the whole chocolate bar. If we don’t, we throw caution to the wind and eat it all. But if we are clever, we take a compromise route, eating just part of the chocolate now.
In PR and marketing we also encounter many situations with dissonance potential. Just like Newton’s third law of motion, every communication action has a consequence – but if it’s not handled correctly the reaction may take the wrong direction and achieve an undesirable result.
One of the big challenges is to strike a balance between doing the right things and doing things right. For example, as long as we are communicating, should we worry about spelling and grammar? As with the dilemma of the chocolate bar, we need a compromise: for without adhering to the rules of spelling and grammar, we risk making our communication ineffective.
If we are implementing communication strategies, there is often no clear-cut distinction between ‘right things’ and ‘things right’. Experience and good judgment are needed so that we can confidently make PR and marketing recommendations or decisions that won’t leave us feeling dissonant.
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 17 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.