Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ethics in PR (now stop laughing!)

Today the Public Relations Institute of Australia sent out a link to the PRTV edition about ethics.

It's easy to laugh when the concepts are linked - "PR" and 'ethics'.

My second, more sombre reaction (as when interviewed) is that ethical behaviour by PR people is impossible if they don't really know what they're communicating about.

How do I know? Let's call it bitter experience...stories for another time.

The short version is that as so-called professional communicators we have zero credibility if we don't really know what we're talking about, trust the people we work for and ultimately, take extreme care in how we present facts AND nuance.

Yes, we should follow a code of ethics.

Yes, we should "do the right thing", meaning be honest and truthful.

More than those things we should question whether or not what we're asked is right.

And ultimately satisfy ourselves with an answer we can live with.

I certainly can't claim the moral high ground - as a younger PR I sometimes felt very uncomfortable with the "party line". It's career threatening to say "Excuse me Chairman, are you entirely sure we should present things as you've just described?".

More recently we've walked away from several potentially great (exciting, newsworthy) jobs when we felt unsure of the merits of our client's story, or just had a feeling that 'something wasn't right'.

This is not an argument that PRs need forensic accounting skills. However it is reasonable to expect that senior people in our profession can read both people and data, pay attention to the P&L and do a little due diligence on potential clients and employers.

Long term, if we believe our own mantra, our personal reputation is our most valuable asset.

Perhaps in PR the universal ethical guideline is simply enlightened self-interest.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading. Constructive and relevant comments welcome!