Are You Taking Your Company Public? Card Stacking and Assertion Are Your New Best Friends

by James Scott | Nov. 01, 2012

Strategy is the name of the game as a public company. Your competition is more fierce and your calculations must be precise. Here are two Bernaysian strategy techniques to be familiar with as the CEO of a publicly traded company.


In their own strategizing users of propaganda often refer to these methods as "simplification". This differs from Over Simplification, which merely presents choices with vague explanations. To the propagandist "simplification" means making the desired conclusion an easier one for consumers to reach.


One way of increasing how well the cards fall in one's favor is disinformation, inhibiting the respondent's ability to make a completely logical decision. While outright forgeries may fall under this technique, it may be something as simple as withholding information.


Telling part of the truth can prove effective propaganda for audiences just looking for a reason to accept a particular call to action.

Quotes Out Of Context

That goes double for non-contextual quotes. Nothing asserts authority like quotation marks. A demographic primed with prejudice, carrying a deep conviction to its cause -- will not care about what's left out if what individuals hear confirms their bias.

PASS! -Barclay's Bank

Several banks may have done it, but Barclay's stood out when they were caught, These banks manipulated a crucial rubric in setting interest rates called the LIBOR rate. Sure, they got caught, but their fine amounted to a slap on the wrist compared to how much they had made in the interim. Were they right? No. Did they get away with it? Not forever. Did they get more out of it than they risked? Absolutely!

FAIL! -Enron

Enron's use of propaganda could probably count as going a step further into telling the big lie, but the propaganda most interesting in its case was the way it encouraged employees to invest in Enron stock even as management invested elsewhere. This and fabricated reports were less a matter of repeating a big lie hoping people would believe it, than doctoring the truth to manipulate the market by information. Even with the company's failure this may have counted as a success, except that even the executives who pocketed millions ended up with criminal convictions.


The only thing better than telling it like it is, is telling it like it ought to be! If enough people erroneously perceive an issue a particular way that can support a position more effectively than if the issue really were as perceived. Assertions reinforce the intended perception.
Big Lie
When all else fails, make up a real whopper and see how many people reel it in just because it gets attention. At least if they attend to you, they pay no heed to opposition. Just keep saying it. And when people tire of hearing it, say it again.


If it is witty enough, and catchy enough to remember easily, a slogan can reinforce all other efforts by condensing them all into one easy to handle idea -- that people pass around easily.

Ad Nauseam

Repeat the lies until even fact checkers question their own results. Repeat the slogans until people start repeating them on their own. Repeat them until one person starts it and another finishes. The promoter, feeling sick of hearing one thing over and over again, has but one recourse -- repeat some more.

Direct Order

This differs from the "appeal to authority" because the less affirmative appeal associates a desired result with individual's sense of responsibility to authority's will. A Direct Order goes so far as to make obedience a command. It can be subtle, and done with skill need involve no perception of having been ordered around at all -- something as simple as "Call Now!"

PASS! -Exxon Valdez

By quickly dealing with the allegedly drunken captain, asserting responsibility for the mess, and promoting its eagerness to clean it up, Exxon avoided extensive immediate media scrutiny with the appearance of openness. Later emphasis on early signs of recovery suggested it may not have been as bad as it seemed. It still remains a significant environmental disaster.

FAIL! -BP-Deepwater Horizon

BP employed a nearly identical strategy in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Two differences made all the differences in their effectiveness. It was less a geographically isolated event, and more a continual crisis drawing ever more attention. The other was that real-time experts had the chance to scrutinize BP claims of how much oil was spilling, so its misrepresentations became quickly clear as the crisis advanced.


About James Scott

James Scott is the CEO of Princeton Corporate Solutions, a corporate globalization and political strategies firm, PCS offers a unique blend of think tank, corporate and governmental communication strategies to expedite the facilitation of long lasting relationship building in these necessary sectors.


About Chia-Li Chien

Chia-Li Chien

Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; Chia-Li “like JOLLY!” Succession Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs. She is Chief Strategist of Value Growth Institute dedicated to helping private business owners increase the value of their firms. She is the award-winning author of Show Me The Money and faculty member of American Management Association. Her blog and newsletter was named a top small business resource by the New York Times “You’re the Boss” blog.


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