Learn how to get the most value from public relations without crossing ethical lines
We ask public relations professionals to tell our story, but do they have to tell the truth? If your PR firm, in handling a crisis for you, chooses to omit unfavorable information about your company when addressing the public, is that dishonest? More importantly, if unethical behavior from PR helps your company, should you care?
For Axia Public Relations, the answer to all these questions is yes. Trust is one of the most vital aspects of the relationship between a company and its PR agency. Once you understand more about the value of ethical practices in the public relations profession, you will insist on nothing less.
What are the consequences of dishonesty?
As with any profession, there are always a few bad apples spoiling the whole bunch. The same is true of public relations. When a company has experienced unethical behavior by a PR practitioner, they may find it difficult to trust again.
Unethical practices shed a negative light on the entire profession. Additionally, when you have been deceived, your trust is eroded. This makes you more likely to put time-sucking checks and balances in place in an attempt to maintain control.
Examples of unethical behavior in PR
- Overselling capabilities.
Beware of PR agencies that give you promises and guarantees.
- Sidestepping the issue of measurement.
Your PR firm should be happy to discuss key metrics, reporting strategies and return on investment.
- Lack of transparency.
Your PR agency may not divulge exactly to whom they are pitching, but they should definitely be willing to discuss how they are positioning your company and what media outlets they are targeting.
- Blatant lying.
Claiming to have clients, contacts and resources they don’t have are some of the ways PR professionals can deceive.
- Underhanded tactics.
While it’s fine to develop creative campaigns, some take things too far by planting misinformation to make clients look better or making false statements to attract attention. When the public discovers this kind of behavior, the good reputation of your entire organization is at risk. Remember this: If someone can be dishonest for you, he may just as easily be dishonest to you.
How to foster an atmosphere of honesty with your PR agency
- Both the client and the PR firm must tell the truth about their objectives, limitations and abilities.
- It’s important for PR professionals to have a sound relationship with legal counsel and access to key decision makers so that everyone is on the same page and can deliver organizational messages effectively.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for open communication with your PR agency; the more issues and tactics you discuss, the less room you leave for dishonesty.
When your PR firm truly understands your company and what you are trying to achieve, and clear goals and expectations are set, deception is unnecessary. The best PR firms are able to provide excellent services and counsel without compromising ethics; yours or theirs.
At Axia Public Relations, we strongly adhere to the code of ethics established by the Public Relations Society of America. Using these guidelines, we develop programs and help you communicate with your audiences responsibly and with accountability. To learn more, give us a call or subscribe to our blog for more helpful information and counsel.
Lisa Goldsberry is a blogger for Axia Public Relations with more than 15 years of public relations experience. She specializes in business and technology PR. Lisa has worked for Axia since December 2013. Learn more about Lisa Goldsberry. Connect with Axia on Twitter @axiapr or tell us what you think in the comments below.
Featured image credit: 123rf.com