Monday, August 22, 2005

A romantic moment and great public relations

This post takes up some of the comments that have been made so far in the journey I am taking to present an even stronger case for using the Relationship Value Model.

Starting with how the brain works I am going on a journey that will, I hope make sense of how and why, at its best, public relations works. It will cover many academic disciplines from neurophysiology to economics and will end up showing how public relations is a management practice that creates wealth – and always has done.

Neurologists and psychologists will hate me for the analogy I am about to make. Its a simplistic view of the brain and how it works.

In our brains we have Neuronal cells and they have special projections of neurons (called dendrites) that receive and send information, (encoded as patterns of electrical and chemical activity, within the brain). They receive and send signals from many other cells and then integrate these signals over time and pass this information on.

The network used for this communication (the axon) is like the strands of a spider's web. This network allows this information be communicated to many other neurons, thus beginning this process all over again in a new neuronal cell. Its a poor analogy for a wonderful and complex organ, but we might imagine the brain as a massive spiders web with Neuronal cells at each intersection of the web.

The point of contact between dendrites and axons (the cell and the web strands) is highly specialized and is known as a synapse.

Synapses are of great interest to neurobiologists since it is at this point that information can be modulated before it is passed on to the next cell. Synaptic modulation is thought to be the basis for several complex properties of the brain such as learning and memory.

(OK, its all a bit technical. I am doing my best - the romantic moment is on its way - promise)

Continuing with the analogy, the Neuronal cells can work on information that comes across the web. Sometimes, for the synapses, the web strands have different characteristics for the neuron (thicker, stronger, faster) and so they tell the cell to do something. It might be commands such as: 'please process this information with other information' or 'please process this information by paying special attention to some information from another strand in the web first – Oh... and can you do that really fast please'.

Imagine that this web stretched across the whole of the European continent. It would be massive, and it is, and it is, all scrunched up into our heads.

Some parts of this web have special skill sets. The bit of the web that could, for example come from Poland and might represent the prefrontal cortex the part of the brain scrunched up in our heads but controlling planning, working memory, organization, and mood modulation (This area of the brain is not mature until about 18 years of age ). Other parts of the brain do other things very well too but the whole works with all the other web strands and cells.

If you then imagine a stimulus arriving at the brain from sences, for example example a smell, taste, sound, sight or touch. The brain gets a signal from the nervous system and it rushes it to the web in the brain. Some synapses say to some cells 'this is something you should know about – process please.' And the cell does its processing and says 'yup this is definitely a like a smell' and the message is passed through the web where other cells confirm its a smell and after a lot of work, the cells all agree, this is the scent of a rose.

Wow! Suddenly a whole load of other synapses recognise this, get all physical about it and tug harder on the web and make the strands bigger, faster and stronger to tell the other cells that this is important information and they say: 'my Neuronal cell can tell you more'.

After a while, the brain finds from past stimuli that this not just a smell but is the scent and romantic emotion associated with roses and a loved partner. This is lots of cells from all over the brain working together. Some of them my even issue commands to the nervous system to do something – a kiss maybe.

Romantic notions, like all emotional responses are held by cells that have seriously strong web strands and chunky synapses and are very happy to jerk all the other cells around until they almost don't know what they are doing – you know the feeling?

Public relations is a practice that introduces stimuli to work with what people know and have stored in their brains. So by just passing the rose under the closed eyes of a loved one, all the sensations remind her of you.

A romantic moment and great public relations.

People's brains are wired to be receptive to good public relations.

Well, it's the first part of understanding how, in the Relationship Value Model, PR works.