As PR practitioners, our job is to manage the reputations of our clients. How we do that and the results we achieve often reflect on our personal leanings, our education, ethical considerations and possibly, the money spent.
Our guidance assists clients to function more effectively in a complex, pluralistic society, by contributing to mutual understanding among these groups or institutions that we serve.
Many of the difficulties we are asked to overcome, or resolve, stem from poor communication. And today, mistimed or misdirected comments through social media outlets seem to exacerbate, rather than mitigate, a situation.
So we always insist on telling the truth and providing full information? – Yeah right! (Say our detractors). The myriad of circumstances we face daily test our ethical resolve to do and say the right thing, because surely our intention is to achieve true dialogue leading to understanding.
As ethical communicators we need to ensure that we are rigorous in the examination of our own practices.
More than 20 years ago, UK PR guru Sam Black wrote: “It could be argued that it would be wrong to do anything to publicise cigarettes, since smoking increases the likelihood of lung cancer; or to promote a wider use of butter since it may be a contributory factor in the causation of coronary thrombosis. There is bound to be a measure of special pleading in all organised public relations activities, but it is a fundamental tenet of democracy that individuals and groups shall have freedom to persuade others, provided the means are fair and open.”
So in developing the image that we desire for our company or client, or their social responsibility position and effectively presenting it to the world, are we mindful of the need for integrity and honest implementation, considering all aspects of an issue? Or are we happy to proceed (often blindly) because the imperatives of achieving the desired outcome as laid down by ‘the boss’ far outweigh ethical considerations?
We’ll explore, discuss and debate all these aspects in a seminar in Wellington on October 4, PR intro part 2 – open to anyone at an entry to intermediate level, or a senior practitioner looking to develop their practice.
Rob Crabtree APR, FPRINZ. AFNZIM