Russia spent the past year or more proving to the world it learned quite a bit from its Cold War days. Not only did it learn to hold its own against another leading power, but it also learned how to use propaganda to its benefit.
PR professionals around the world look at Putin’s beast of a PR machine and admire it, if not his agendas. His new use of the beast against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policies provides more fodder for a growing debate. However, it also creates further tension as European countries struggle to respond to the refugee crisis.
The problem began when the Chancellor announced plans to allow Syrian refugees to enter Germany. This decision made Germany one of the top locations in Europe for people looking to escape war-torn and poverty-stricken countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. As a result, Germany registered roughly a million refugees in 2015.
Germany then faced tens of billions of dollars to house, clothe, feed, and educate asylum seekers while they settled in the country. This earned The Chancellor praise from some and criticism from others. Many questioned if the cost of taking in refugees could not have been better spent on benefits for current citizens and residents.
Firing the Shot
Perhaps no protest came more loudly than from the Russians; and not just Russians at home, but ethnic Russians in Germany as well. The Russian media started by reporting all the trouble brewing among conservatives in Germany since the Chancellor’s decision. This increased tension, creating a negative light of the Chancellor and her ability to manage.
Russia then reached out to Germany’s 1.2 million strong ethnic Russians to cast doubt on Merkel’s decision. Keeping the refugee crisis – rather than solutions – at the forefront of the media further weakened Merkel’s position and the public’s trust.
More than 700 ethnic Russians demonstrated outside the Chancellery in late January. They accused the police of covering up crimes committed by the refugees, and specifically centered the spotlight on sexual assaults against women by North African men in several German cities on New Years’. Rather than just fire accusations, the protest demanded something more appealing to the public: protection for their daughters.
Using the Media to Influence Public Opinion
Whether people agree with Putin’s agendas and ideologies, one cannot help but admire his execution. He gets the job done, whether the rest of the world likes it or not. His actions also illustrate how PR influences public opinion, moving people to take action.
This is as true of politics as it is of businesses looking to fix bad reputations, or build reputable ones from scratch. To this end, many businesses and organizations use PR to their benefit affecting how the public perceives their goods, their services, and perhaps even more importantly, their brand.
As a result, though many organizations and public figures can use PR to withhold information or cover up mishaps, public relations remains a vehicle of personal and professional success for those who have the power to wield it.