Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Inconvenient Truth 

What happens when a researcher discovers an inconvenient truth? The researcher can accept it and/or argue with it, as this fellow is doing. He doesn't like that he has proven diversity makes for a worse community, not better. The greater the diversity, the fewer people vote, "the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings."

This conclusion is against the tenets of the liberal mind. It is hard to accept, so hard that the professor looked at his data over and over to make sure it was correct. It goes against conventional wisdom that diversity is better for society. It feeds the worse instincts of anti-immigration advocates, although immigrants built US society. What to do? The first step is to accept facts. That may be the hardest task of all.

It is easy as PR practitioners to accept "truths" and never question them. It is facile and wrong. As middle persons between organizations and audiences, we must first look hard at what is there before we attempt to persuade anyone of anything. It may be, and often is, that the "public" is nowhere near where we or an organization thinks it to be. Our job is to tell the organization what is and not what the organization wants to hear. It takes skill to do that -- and courage. It is easier to duck issues and mouth a party line, but it is also ineffective and wrong.

Public relations is a difficult business when done right. It is as difficult as the job of a social scientist.


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