Sunday, December 13, 2009

Public Relations and Pseudo Events

Daniel Boorstin came up with the term called pseudo events. The historian Daniel J. Boorstin came up with the term "pseudo-event" in his work "The Image", first published in 1961. A pseudo-event, Boorstin wrote, is "not spontaneous ... but planned, planted, or incited"--an event whose "occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media," and whose "relation to the underlying reality of the situation is ambiguous." source :

In an example which illustrates what Boorstin meant :

"The owners of a hotel, in an illustration offered by Edward L. Bernays in his pioneer Crystallizing Public Opinion[1923], consult a public relations counsel. They ask how to increase their hotel's prestige and so improve their business.

"In less sophisticated times, the answer might have been to hire a new chef, to improve the plumbing, to paint the rooms, or to install a new crystal chandelier in the lobby.

"The public relations counsel's technique is more indirect. He proposes that the management stage a celebration of the hotel's thirtieth anniversary. A committee is formed, including a prominent banker, a leading society matron, a well-known lawyer, an influential preacher, and aneventis planned [say a banquet] to call attention to the distinguished service the hotel has been rendering the community. The celebration is held, photographs are taken, the occasion is widely reported, and the object is accomplished."

To this Boorstin explains as he thinks it is a pseudo event. He says,

"Now this occasion is a pseudo-event, and will illustrate all the essential features of pseudo-events.

"This celebration, we can see at the outset, is somewhat -- but not entirely -- misleading. Presumably the public relations counsel would not have been able to form his committee of prominent citizens if the hotel had not actually been rendering service to the community. On the other hand, if the hotel's services had been all that important, instigation by public relations counsel might not have been necessary.

"Once the celebration has been held, the celebration itself becomes evidence that the hotel really is a distinguished institution. The occasion actually gives the hotel the prestige to which it is pretending.

"It is obvious, too, that the value of such a celebration to the owners depends on its being photographed and reported in newspapers, magazines, newsreels, on radio, and over television. It is the report that gives the event its force in the minds of potential customers."


Press conferences are a common example of pseudo-events.Pseudo-events are staged to attract media attention.The media is informed well in time so they can prepare for reporting on it. "Spontaneous (or “genuine”) events are never, or hardly ever, influenced by the mass media." It is important to note here that though such events may not be influenced by media they could have news value and be vital for the media to report .


Are we so media dependant that pseudo events seem to be the only way to get attention? what about non-media activities? Can these be added a little more as part of strategic communication, both by corporations and NGOs alike, so that public relations is looked at a little differently? what do you think?


  1. I agree. And are we forgetting interviews? While interviews with celebrities, or features on them, may seem to be spontaneous act on the part of the publication, pretty much every media interview with a celebrity is staged for the sake of promoting a movie, book, or some other kind of event.

  2. Apart from just concentrating on media relations and promoting press conferences as pseudo events, PR in India is now also giving attention to BTL activities which are in one way non-media tools.

  3. In today's scenario where pseudo events have been a regular occurance..I am waitng fot the next leap in PR!!

  4. I think it would be a good idea to know how many companies in mumbai encourage BTL activities.Tejal you could take this as a research subject.

  5. Thanks for the suggestion Ma'm.

  6. We are influenced by the media than we assume. Though today's youngsters read/view less of News & Current affairs, their decisions are preconceived from the Media. The kids are totally hooked to the toon channels. Pseudo events are likely to occur more.

  7. More the media more the need of pseudo events until and unless we look beyond it.