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Stoic Philosophy for Public Relations

The obstacle is the way to better PR.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer


Could sto­ic philo­sophy for pub­lic rela­tions work?

Based on the sto­ic philo­sophy for pub­lic rela­tions (PR), obstacles must be seen as growth oppor­tun­it­ies. In this view, hard­ships will be power­ful tools for con­quer­ing pub­lic opin­ion.

Here we go:

Zeno, the Cypriot Merchant

A few hun­dred years BC, a Cypriot mer­chant lost everything in a shipwreck.

His name was Zeno, and accord­ing to the legend, he walked into a book­store, broke and almost beaten, and searched for answers by read­ing philo­sophy. Some years later, he went on to lay the found­a­tion of Stoicism. 

A sto­ic believes we should take the uni­verse at face value. 

But Stoicism is also, in more ways than one, the oppos­ite of tra­di­tion­al pub­lic rela­tions and mar­ket­ing; we strive to influ­ence per­cep­tion and man­u­fac­ture con­sent by mak­ing people want more.

PR is often about big­ger, bet­ter, faster, and stronger.
More drama. More conflict.

What if Zeno was right — and we are wrong?

The Obstacle is the Way

The idea of a sto­ic approach to pub­lic rela­tions made me revis­it a book I read a few years ago, Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs.

The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday.
The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday.

Drawing from sto­ic philo­sophy, Holiday argues that Stoicism isn’t just about endur­ing pain and adversity with per­sever­ance and resi­li­ence; it’s about allow­ing these obstacles to make you grow.

Then, a sto­ic PR pro­fes­sion­al would avoid reach­ing the masses with fire­works and plat­it­udes.

We must trans­form obstacles into oppor­tun­it­ies to suc­ceed with the Stoic philo­sophy for PR. The dif­fi­culty of your path must be your best tool for con­quer­ing pub­lic opinion. 

Could sto­ic philo­sophy work as a mod­us operandi for PR pro­fes­sion­als?

Stoic Philosophy for Public Relations

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PR and Stoicism

I’m inspired by Stoicism — and intrigued by the idea of trans­lat­ing clas­sic­al Stoic vir­tues (wis­dom, cour­age, justice, tem­per­ance) and apply­ing them to pub­lic relations:

The Wisdom Pitch

A Stoic is someone who trans­forms fear into prudence, pain into trans­form­a­tion, mis­takes into ini­ti­ation, and desires into under­tak­ing.”
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Tell PR stor­ies of how organ­isa­tions can be wise and over­come obstacles that have stopped oth­ers in their tracks. Convey PR mes­sages on how to apply wis­dom, know­ledge, and experience.

The Courage Pitch

We can­not choose our cir­cum­stances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”
— Epictetus

Tell PR stor­ies of brands that nev­er back down in the face of hard­ships that would des­troy oth­er organ­isa­tions. Convey PR mes­sages of how an organ­isa­tion can be right­eous even when storms are raging.

The Justice Pitch

Concentrate every minute on doing what’s in front of you with pre­cise and genu­ine ser­i­ous­ness, ten­derly, will­ingly, with justice.”
— Marcus Aurelius

Tell PR stor­ies of how organ­isa­tions relent­lessly can strive for hon­esty and trans­par­ency — even when uncom­fort­able. Convey PR mes­sages about how all brands, without excep­tion, can rid them­selves of dis­hon­esty and incompetence.

The Temperance Pitch

It’s not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor.”
— Seneca

Tell PR stor­ies of organ­isa­tions that strive for high­er val­ues in a world where all oth­er organ­isa­tions suf­fer short­sighted­ness. Convey PR mes­sages of organ­isa­tions pre­pared to abstain from short-term gains to make the world bet­ter for all.

Learn more: Stoic Philosophy for PR Professionals

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Growth by Enduring Hardships

The Stoic philo­sophy for PR pro­fes­sion­als could be a prac­tic­al approach. I like the idea of a PR pro­fes­sion­al who sees oppor­tun­it­ies where oth­ers only see obstacles.

I also like the idea of a PR pro­fes­sion­al who’s not striv­ing for short-lived fire­works but who strives to build brands of sub­stance. I like the idea of a PR pro­fes­sion­al who drives aware­ness through doing dif­fi­cult things.

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

PR Resource: The High Road Tonality

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The High Road Tonality

An organ­isa­tion is the poly­phon­ic sum of all its cowork­ers. Imagine tak­ing the most mature traits from each cowork­er and com­bin­ing them into one voice — the High Road Tonality.

  • Openness. A mature organ­isa­tion under­stands that every­one must be allowed to express their thoughts and opinions.
  • Fairness. A mature organ­isa­tion will see (and respect) both sides of a divis­ive argument.
  • Strength. A mature organ­isa­tion is con­fid­ent in its chosen strategies and acquired abil­it­ies, not because they’re per­fect, but because they are grounded.
  • Wisdom. A mature organ­isa­tion will take the time to explain com­plex top­ics without condescending.
  • Humility. A mature organ­isa­tion under­stands that no one can have everything com­pletely figured out and that we all have learn­ing and grow­ing to do.

Learn more: The High Road Tonality: Don’t Be Pushed Around

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Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has



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