Age of Propaganda – A guide to persuading effectively

Age of Propaganda – A guide to persuading effectively

I just finished reading the Age of Propaganda by Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson. I bought it after a recommendation from Ramit Sethi on a Tim Ferriss podcast interview.

Written in 2004, the principles in the age of propaganda carries principles that are still relevant, despite reading this in 2017.

Key types of persuasion tactics are explained using direct mail, paracetamol brands and car salesmanship as a vehicle for explaining how they work and how to persuade us into purchasing certain products. Concepts are clear and concise, so that will make you rethink your position next time you want to buy a new car. This book compelled me to think about purchasing my last car; I was probably persuaded to spend more money than I needed to.

The book also touches on governmental efforts to control information to convince its population to think or vote in a certain way. It explains how the British and the Americans used propaganda during WW1 to shape public opinion against the Germans. Hitler even stated his admiration for their efforts, using similar propaganda tactics with his Nazi party in WW2.

Even though the book misses out new subjects such as social media and fake news which didn’t exist when being written, it doesn’t disadvantage it. In fact, its relevance despite its age makes the book more profound as you can see a logical progression of new technologies. You could quite easily jump to the conclusion that the way social media is simply an extension of the ideas outlined in the book, especially when you consider how brands can target their adverts to us through Facebook advertising so efficiently.

Towards the end, Age of Propaganda focuses on the practical ideas behind propaganda; it’s usage and how to spot when someone is using propaganda to get a particular message through to you. Using the principles in the book also provides practical steps for those looking to use propaganda for personal advantage.

A lot of the advice is logical and helpful. As someone who finds presenting and public speaking hard, I think I will use this book next time I need to make a speech. The ideas work well as a base for speech writing, letting you understand who your audience is and how to communicate with them effectively.

We are all trying to sell something, regardless of whether it’s an idea, product or mentality. My neighbour, a friend, a brand, the government are all trying to persuade you to think in a certain way, whether with intent or not. The Age of Propaganda makes you realise and understand this in an unbiased, neutral way which I liked.

In summary: Age Of Propaganda is for the intreged, rather than the opinionated.

Overall, Age of Propaganda is a good read for someone who is interested in how persuasion works, how to spot it and how to use it. Age of Propaganda doesn’t carry any of the emotional baggage behind the effects of propaganda, which is an easy route to go down.

For a marketer or copywriter, this book is useful as a basis of how to structure and write persuasive texts. I think this is how the book will be most helpful to me. If you find my blog better more articulate and better structured in the future, you know why now!

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