Book Summary: Crystallizing Public Opinion by Edward Bernays

Quick Summary: Edward Bernays explains the broad principles of the public relations profession in Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923). He seeks to restore this field’s reputation by assisting readers in viewing it as a result of intellectual traditions.

The goal of public relations, in his opinion, is to facilitate public communications by crafting and maintaining a firm and direct simplification of complex social issues. He defines public relations counsel as a social scientist who specializes in fully understanding public opinion and knowing how the public mind is influenced, touching on topics such as propaganda, stereotypes, the press, and public interactions.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book summary provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

Crystallizing Public Opinion Book Summary

A Director and Advisor

The activities of public relations consultants have a significant impact on people’s daily lives. However, due to the newness of this profession and the scarcity of information about it, their scope and functions remain a mystery. Many people are unfamiliar with the profession, both theoretically and practically, and a public relations counsel is frequently mistaken for a “propagandist,” a press agent, or even a publicity man.

It is also likely that those who practice this profession have little idea how to define their work, which is due in part to the fact that their profession is still relatively new, and they rely on experience rather than analysis. In reality, a public relations counsel simply directs his clients and advises them on their impact on the public’s daily life.

The rise in the number of public relations counsels is due to the public’s demand for their services and the value they provide. The general public wants to know everything. Because even a mostly non-competitive service must constantly “sell” itself to the public and win public opinion, public judgment has exerted increasing pressure on all political, religious, professional, and social aspects of American life. Even modern governments operate on the premise that it is insufficient to govern their own citizens well and to assure the public that they are acting in their best interests. They recognize that global public opinion is important to them as well.

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The Public’s Opinion

Many times throughout history, public opinion has been decisive. People and organizations whose interests will be influenced by it make every effort to have the most skilled counsels available to represent them in the court of public opinion. A public relations specialist’s job is similar to that of an attorney in that he advises his client and litigates his case on his behalf.

While formal hearings before a judge and jury are held in legal cases, this is not always the case in the court of public opinion. Mob psychology and society’s intolerance for opposing viewpoints have made it difficult and risky for a man to advocate for novel or unpopular causes.

To fully comprehend the public relations profession, one must first comprehend its characteristics as well as its roots in the essential components of individual and public minds. The term “public opinion” refers to constantly shifting judgments. It is the result of the individual perspectives of men and women who make up society or any part of it.

To understand public opinion, we must first understand the individual opinions of the people who comprise the public. A public relations consultant should be aware of all social ramifications of individual thoughts and actions. He must also become accustomed to the fact that people who know very little about a particular subject generally have a favorable opinion of it.

What Factors Influence Public Opinion

Propaganda can be both a producer and a product of public opinion. Parents, education, the media, religion, and advertising are all outside forces that influence public opinion. Some authorities claim that public opinion is adamantly opposed to the press and that it has little influence over it, but the press is still regarded as the primary institution that shapes the public mind. The press, like other forms of education, has the ability to influence public opinion.

Because of the importance of thought communication, public relations consultants must carefully examine the links between public opinion and the factors that maintain or change it. The public interacts with the press and everything else that has an impact on its opinion.

A public relations professional should fully comprehend this critical fact and all of its implications. While the press appears to be introducing the public to new and important issues, it is actually conforming to it. It is the job of the public relations specialist to understand how the public mind, the press, and other influencers interact.

The impact of any force attempting to influence public opinion is entirely dependent on its ability to establish new visions and points of view. The press, schools, churches, and public relations all cater to the public’s needs on a large scale. Some analysts even argue that the public does not have its own opinions, but rather that influential institutions prepare them for it.

The dominant point of view must be enlisted by the public opinion shaper. This holds true for the press as well as other forces. However, even the dominant point of view can change, and before any public relations counsel can study how individuals or groups will react to changes in established points of view, he must conduct psychological studies on them.

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Psychological habits, also known as “stereotypes,” reduce human effort. Because stereotypes are so simple to grasp, everyone reacts to them based on their own personal experiences. Several activities of public relations counsels are based on stereotypes. They are extremely powerful, and changing or substituting one for another is extremely difficult. Psychologists have identified the fundamental elements of the individual mind and their connections to mass reactions for public relations counsel. The crowd is a constant state of consciousness that pervades society and its members.

What becomes clear during times of stress or excitement is usually present in the back of the individual’s mind, which helps to explain why public opinion is so certain and dismissive of opposing viewpoints. Controlling factors are institutions that shape public opinion against a standard background, and those strong standards, in turn, control institutions that shape public opinion.

This is why it is critical to understand the institutions’ origins and strengths if we are to understand the institutions themselves and their influence on individuals and groups.

When we examine interactions between institutions and the public, we find that obedience and leadership have a significant impact on their relationship. Thought leaders, including the press and educational institutions, operate in a background that they cannot control.

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Censorship and Propaganda

The public relations counsel must always remember that his effectiveness is limited because public opinion is sometimes entirely determined by its leaders. He does not need to persuade people to standardize their opinions or to continue believing dominant ideas that dominate even more by meeting some needs.

While some may argue that propaganda is entirely dependent on censorship, the opposite is true. Propaganda serves a purpose. It is an attempt to break through mental censorship. Citizens, in fact, are the world’s leading censors. Their minds are the primary barrier between them and factual knowledge.

It is now obvious that a supporter of a particular idea, whether acting alone or with the help of a public relations consultant, must use established communication channels. Innovators cannot create their own communication channels and must instead rely on pre-existing ones such as the press, magazines, and radio.

Public relations professionals should use such approaches to reach both minorities and majorities. If a public relations consultant can get his ideas across to the public despite its diversity, despite all of the psychological issues, and despite financial difficulties, then his profession has a high social value.

Because the rise of the United States to its current glory and diversity has increased men’s natural desire to divide into groups opposing each other’s points of view, it has become more difficult to create a common will on any topic.

Trader of News

Public relations consultants deal with public opinion, which is formed by individual minds that make up the collective mind. Group inertia also contributes to the dominating order of things. Three factors assist public relations professionals in overcoming group inertia: the overlapping formation of groups in societies, the constant change in groups, and the altered physical conditions to which groups react.

The theories and analyses of the public relations counsel are based on abstract discussions and dense facts, but they cannot be shared with the public until they are clarified and simplified. The nuances of logic and emotion cannot be communicated to a large group of people. He is thus a news producer, regardless of the medium he uses to convey his ideas.

It is his responsibility to create news, and it is this interest that allows him to transmit ideas and receive positive responses. Public relations counsels represent news traders to newspapers, and when the news is accurate and true, journalists look favorably on these successful counsels. Because newspapers are all about news, understanding what each news story is really about is an important part of a public relations counsel’s job. He must not only transmit but also generate news.

Finally, if we examine examples of a public relations counsel’s work, we will discover that the activities of the public mind have made it difficult for his profession to gain the public’s unconditional approval. Public relations counsels should maintain their ethical standards and reject clients who fail to meet them in order to improve their standing.

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Crystallizing Public Opinion Review

Edward Bernays expresses his ideas in long sentences full of explanatory observations. He cites and analyzes facts, but his authority is undermined by spelling errors that appear several times throughout the book, such as “public relations” instead of “public relations counsel,” and “the rich and the por” instead of “the rich and the poor.” Bernays uses “he” as the general pronoun, as was customary at the time.

About The Author

Edward Bernays (1891-1995) was a public relations and propaganda pioneer. He is often referred to as the “Father of Public Relations.” His insistence on portraying the public relations profession as respectable stemmed from his belief that the majority of people despised publicity.

As a result, he chose the respectable field of science to name his book Crystallizing Public Opinion. In chemistry, crystallization describes the transformation of an amorphous entity, such as a gas, into a coherent mass. Bernays saw public opinion coalescing as a similar process.

Crystallizing Public Opinion Quotes

“The success of Lord Riddell in getting publicity for British opinion during the Washington conference, while the French viewpoint was not stressed, may result in the appointment by the Poincaré Government of a real propaganda agent to meet the foreign newspaper men.”


“The most important problem which American railroads must solve is ‘the problem of selling themselves to the public.”


“The subways strive in this regard to create a feeling of submissiveness toward inconveniences which are more or less unavoidable, and they strive likewise to fulfill such constructive programs as that of extending traffic on less frequented lines.”


“Large industrial groups, in their associations, have assigned a definite place to public relations bureaus.”

View our larger collection of the best Crystalizing Public Opinion quotes. 

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