Born in Vienna, Bernays was both a blood nephew and a nephew-in-law to Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, and Bernays's public relations efforts helped popularize Freud's theories in the United States. Bernays also pioneered the PR industry's use of psychology and other social sciences to design its public persuasion campaigns. "If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it," Bernays argued. He called this scientific technique of opinion molding the "engineering of consent."
One of Bernays's favorite techniques for manipulating public opinion was the indirect use of "third party authorities" to plead for his clients' causes. "If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway," he said. In order to promote sales of bacon, for example, he conducted a survey of physicians and reported their recommendation that people eat hearty breakfasts. He sent the results of the survey to 5,000 physicians, along with publicity touting bacon and eggs as a hearty breakfast.
Bernays's clients included President Calvin Coolidge, Procter & Gamble, CBS, the American Tobacco Company, General Electric, Dodge Motors, and the fluoridationists of the Public Health Service. Beyond his contributions to these famous and powerful clients, Bernays revolutionized public relations by combining traditional press agentry with the techniques of psychology and sociology to create what one writer has called "the science of ballyhoo."
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