COMM11110 Module 8 Blog Topic: the difference between persuasion and coercion

Module 8 Blog Topic:   What is the difference between persuasion and coercion? Where would you draw the line at using questionable tactics in order to achieve your public relations objective/goal? Give an example of what you consider to be an ethical use of persuasion in PR. Give at least two references to illustrate your post (250-300 words only).

The concept of persuasion has been present a long time throughout history (Wilcox, Cameron, Reber, & Shin 2013). Persuasion is implemented when communication to an audience is intended to induce belief or action. Ten major concepts related to persuasive communication are: audience analysis, creating the audience’s self-interest, to receive audience participation, to receive suggestions for action, to contain source credibility, to provide a clear message, to have precise message structure, employing the correct channels, timing and setting, lastly reinforcement of the message (Wilcox et al. 2013).
The definition of coercion (Cambridge Dictionaries 2015) states that it is to (a) restrain or dominate by nullifying individual will, (b) to compel to an act or choice, (c) to enforce or bring about force or threat. Thus, coercion means making someone do something against their will using intimidation or threats. So the difference between the two is that persuasion is inducing someone to do something with reasoning; whilst, coercion is forcing someone to do something by intimidating or threatening them, which is not only immoral; but to threaten someone is something which could be legally frowned upon.
The line should therefore be drawn at ethical persuasion, as coercion is an immoral and legally frowned upon action. Wilcox et al. (2013) provides an example of ethical persuasion in public relations which is the Ivy Lee Rockefellers and coal industry case. Where Ivy Lee used his research to inform/persuade the Rockefellers on the best course of action; for instance, when he persuaded the mining company to send an open thank you letter to the miners. Following that, when he persuaded John D. Rockefeller, Jr to visit the Ludlow mines where he interacted with the miners. This public relations case is often referred to as the beginning of modern industrial public relations (Wilcox et al. 2013).

Figure 1: Ivy Ledbetter Lee Founder of Modern Public Relations GHM-115-7-Polk Co Source: Groundspeak 2015 (2008) digital image,Waymark Gallery, viewed 3 May 2015,

Figure References
Groundspeak 2015 (2008), Ivy Ledbetter Lee founder of modern public relations GHM-115-7-Polk Co, digital image, Waymark Gallery, viewed 3 May 2015,


Cambridge Dictionaries 2015, Coercion, viewed 3 May 2015,

Wilcox, D, Cameron, G, Reber, B & Shin, J 2013, Think public relations, 2nd edn, Pearson Education, New Jersey.


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