In my industry, publicists and marketers are used to being painted with reputations as saints or sinners—and maybe we should start to pay more attention to that.
New technologies are tying real-time tracking and profiling into the business of building influence. Case in point—check out the recent Motherboard coverage of Edelman's work for Big Oil by Brian Merchant, a New York Times contributor and Motherboard editor. He shares Edelman's proposal to create the appearance of a "grassroots" campaign from the ground up.
Whether you are a fan of "astroturfing" or not, the proposal from Edelman with its logic, technical prowess, and detailed daily meeting schedules makes it clear the company can and does orchestrate large shifts in public opinion, from idea to activists.
Marketing and public relations close ranks through technology
Marketing and PR has always been on the front lines of shifting behavior through opinion, but we've never before had such close-to-perfect sentiment "tracking-and-attacking" at our disposal. Every year, a host of new digital tools helps us mine emotions for marketing purposes. Another host of tools helps us dampen unwanted reactions.
Is it wrong to influence behavior?
"It is not wrong to try" has often been the pat answer for marketers.
Now, if your budget is big enough, you almost certainly succeed. First-world target markets, at an individual level, are technically "surroundable." For example, if you know a person's Facebook data, you can conceivably plant information for them that uses their friends' interests, their own interests, the voices of celebrities they trust, and shows up on the sites and TV shows they follow. If your "tribe" believes it, or seems to, how long is it before the average person has to choose between being part of their tribe and holding the opinion that seems so embedded in their environment?