Over the years, academia hijacked an old biblical passage that I, too, have repurposed. This phrase has guided my 30+ year career (and is worth every consideration by every PR person when considering how to maintain ethics in PR): “the truth shall set you free.”
As PR professionals, we are often privy to information – objective information – about our clients’ products, people and proprieties. This is information the buying public might find less than appealing, which could put the client at great risk in the market place as well as damage their brands and reputations. For better or worse, PR pros are asked to sometimes “overlook” these less than desirable attributes at best, and “spin” these shortcomings at worst. Ethical dilemma? For sure. Worth destroying your professional credibility over? I say no.
At the end of the day, you’ve only got yourself to face. The truth needs to be the driving force behind all of what you say, do, recommend and promote. That’s not to imply that every “wart” that is inherently a part of our clients’ businesses and product sets need be “put out there” for all the world to judge and (sometimes) ridicule. But it is my strong belief that any and all effort to deceive or intentionally mislead, or any effort to discredit a competitor with deceitful or misleading information should be avoided at all cost.
Keep Calm and Carry On
The first step in maintaining ethics in PR is to stay calm, cool, collected when faced with challenging decisions. To do so, you must learn to prioritize.
To prioritize is to order.
To order is to organize.
To organize is to control.
He who has control has sanity.
He who has sanity keeps cool.
I’m both blessed and privileged to have so many constituencies – employees, peers, clients and prospects seeking time and attention from me. It’s gratifying that so many are interested enough in my perspective and opinion to seek me out, gain my industry insights and consider me credible.
How did I get to this place? By keeping in mind our business is – or should be – all about ethics, professional standards, and truth. No amount of client pressure or retainer size, or brand stature should compromise these basic tenets.