Aristotle and Public Relations

The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.

Metaphors bring about learning (Rhet. III.10, 1410b14f.).

Graduation, fulfilling internship commitments and finding our place as public relations professionals is the goal of every Wayne State PR student. Joining the professional community, however, also means that we endorse, and abide by, the public relations code of ethics.

Our ethical standard has time-honored tradition dating back to Aristotle’s Rhetoric. His art of discovering, all available means of persuasion, remains relevant for each argument today.

A political force in his day, the disciplines of Aristotle continue to serve audiences well. Let us consider the function of PR through the teachings of Aristotle’s ethics and rhetoric.

Aristotle’s civil approach to argument is powerful. His method of deductive reasoning, unites speaker with audience, through logical development of proof.

This requires the demonstration of truth already known. Described by addressing specific, practical, and philosophical questions, including probability.

He favored arranging information from the particular, and expanding a topic to its universal perspective. His purpose; to achieve the best potential audience outcome ⎯ appropriate responsive action.

This requires full understanding of a subject through discovery. PR professionals must know and present the facts.

He also asserts that argument must be made with clear and simple subject organization. And that content should include both an engaging introduction and a reinforcing conclusion.

His high regard for the use of metaphors was to develop audience visualization. And he pioneered audience identification, through specific voice, language, and style of message delivery.

Beyond the structure of communication, Aristotle held strong positive views about virtuous character. He opposed the use of ethos (emotional appeal) as a means of exploiting the destructive emotions of an audience.

Aristotle’s Rhetoric opposed crowd pandering. Nor was he in favor of disregarding the sensitivity of an audience (Griffin 2009). His method of audience identification and organized facts by use of descriptive language, is assertive straight talk.

According to Griffin (2009), Aristotle embraced moderation in Greek philosophical society. His theory of virtue, avoids extremes, by balancing courage, justice, practical wisdom, and temperance. This middle path produces habits known as the “golden mean.”

Undeniably, Aristotle’s audience analysis and adaptation (minimally represented here) continues to be associated with the most successful contemporary communication practices.

Aristotle prevailed his test of time. Our challenge remains. Best wishes to all who pursue the golden mean. As in Aristotle’s day, it is our code of ethics that sets us apart.

Therese Padgham
SALUTE, Editor in Chief


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