By Charlotte Dowd, Senior Account Executive
The public has historically viewed PR practitioners with a degree of skepticism, and now, in an era of ‘fake news’ and open, transparent platforms, professionals in the PR industry must uphold their responsibility to provide open, honest and ethical information to the public.
The industry has long since tried to counter this assertion, and I’m happy to say that it is finally paying off, that PR practitioners are now considered the best professionals to consult and advise companies on ethical behaviour in the instance of a dilemma.
Fundamentally, the work of a PR practitioner whittles down to reputation management, promoting the positive coverage of their clients and managing the negative.
We believe here at MK Public Relations that it is the duty of all PR Practitioners to abide by an ethical code, and that the main themes that face PR professionals in the wake of a crises are as follows:
Telling the truth
It is the PR professional’s job to communicate with the media, public and stakeholders in such a way that the organisation is not promising to do more than they can or making unrealistic claims about their products. Real-life ethical decision-making is wracked with confusion, fear and doubt. PR is about building relationships, which depends on trust. You cannot be a trusted source if you have been found to be lying.
This is currently a big issue, especially in the age of the internet, social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Organisations must be open, honest and above reproach. The current trend of social media acting as a newsroom, – making it easy for stakeholders and the public to find news, – not only opens your organisation to scrutiny but also allows stakeholders to interact with you on any issues with which they are not happy. The plus side of this is that the organisation can in turn act upon these concerns and so a valuable two-way communication has been opened up and relationships can be built from a base of transparency.
Your own personal values and principles should guide you through your PR career. Think about how you want to act and be perceived. Are you honest? Accurate? Responsive? Respectful? Ultimately, your personal values will guide you towards a contract, or cause you to steer away from one.
Overall, PR practitioners must feel supported in the decisions that they make, whether that be by their client, their superiors or their colleagues. Only then will they develop the trust in themselves to believe in the decisions that they are making, moral and ethical alike.