Reputation, reputation, reputation. It’s the stuff our industry is built on.
So it is right, in my opinion, that the PRCA (Public Relations and Communications Association, to those of us in the know) took the decision to expel Bell Pottinger, previously one of London’s most reputable PR agencies, for bringing the sector into disrepute with a campaign on behalf of wealthy clients that stirred up racial tension in South Africa.
Cracks have begun to appear in the once presumed sturdy foundations that Bell Pottinger was built upon.
As PR practitioners we work to balance, manage and protect reputation, so when our own reputation comes into question it can – must – only signal one thing.
The unanimous decision by the PRCA to impose its harshest available sanction on Bell Pottinger came just hours after the independent review into the firm found fault with senior management for failing to minimise the risks associated with a potential racially divisive campaign, and for missing the opportunities to curb unethical behaviour. Hats off to PRCA for acting quickly, you must know someone decent in PR – a tough approach for BP, but a lesson for us all.
Us PRs have a duty to exercise careful judgement and fly the flag of integrity and authenticity throughout all we do. People buy people in this business; our commodity is our time… We don’t have anything else to stand behind – and so we need to stand up and be counted.
There are many ingredients to a successful PR career, – I’m still sourcing mine – but a good dollop of common sense; resilience; honesty and ethical principles should form the foundations. Stick to those and the rest should follow.