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#256 Edward L. Bernays (Public Relations, Advertising, & Persuasion)
July 9th, 2022 | E256

What I learned from reading The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations by Larry Tye.


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[0:54] The very substance of American thought was mere clay to be molded by the savvy public relations practitioner.

[1:48] Bernays saved every scrap of paper he sent out or took in and provided them to be made public after his death.

[4:15] The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King by Rich Cohen. (Founders #255)

[6:43] Thinking unconventionally, operating at the edge, and pushing the boundaries became his trademark over a career that lasted more than 80 years.

[10:13] Problems are just opportunities in work clothes.

[12:06] Eddie was convinced that understanding the instincts and symbols that motivate an individual could help him shape the behavior of the masses.

[12:32] 1. Get hired to promote a product. 2. Attach that product to a cause that gives the consumption of that product a deeper meaning. 3. Use the cause to get a small newspaper/media organization to write about the product. 4. Use that media to get larger media to promote the cause indirectly promoting your product.

[15:36] Set yourself to becoming the best-informed person in the agency on the account to which you are assigned. If, for example, it is a gasoline account, read books on oil geology and the production of petroleum products. Read the trade journals in the field. Spend Saturday mornings in service stations, talking to motorists. Visit your client’s refineries and research laboratories. At the end of your first year, you will know more about the oil business than your boss. — Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy (Founders #82)

[17:13] Humans love if other humans will do their work for them.

[19:01] A lesson he is learning promoting: Public visibility had little to do with real value.

[24:13] The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (but True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank and Arthur W. Schultz (Founders #206)

[24:35] He never, never, never, never has just one plan of attack. It is always many, many, attack vectors, relentlessly.

[28:29] Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight. (Founders #186)

[37:23] The outcome was one that most publicity men can only dream about. An irresistible script for a stunt flawlessly executed, covered in nearly every paper in America, with no one detecting the fingerprints of either Bernays or his tobacco company client.

[38:18] John D: The Founding Father of the Rockefellers by David Freeman Hawke (Founders #254) and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller by Ron Chernow (Founders #248)

[44:15] His philosophy in each case was the same. Hired to sell a product or service, he instead sold whole new ways of behaving, which appeared obscure but over time repaid huge rewards for his clients.

[44:26] The Dao of Capital: Austrian Investing in a Distorted World by Mark Spitznagel (Founders #70)

[45:00] He was convinced that ordinary rules did not apply to him. He repeatedly proved that he could reshape reality.

[45:21] The formula was simple: Bernays generated events, the events generated news, and the new generated a demand for whatever he happened to be selling.

[48:47] In an era of mass communications modesty is a private virtue and a public fault.

[52:45] The best defense against propaganda is more propaganda.

[59:54] Advice to younger parents from Eddie’s wife: Be certain to keep a balance where that little girl is concerned. Be sure not to let her get lost in your busy life. (The little girl was 2 or 3 at the time)

[1:09:14] He's like journalists, writers, media representatives, news anchors — You have something very valuable that I want —the attention of the public. If I can make your job easier, I am more likely to get some of that attention for my private interest.

[1:14:55] I still earned fees until I was 95.

[1:17:29] His children remained mystified as to how Eddie managed to die with so few assets.

[1:17:37] Sometimes later in life Eddie told me that he hadn't spent his money wisely. It is the only time he ever told me that he regretted anything.

I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ”

— Gareth

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