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What you need to know about ethics in media relations

By Lisa Goldsberry

30181666_s.jpgLearn how making the right decisions can advance your news coverage efforts

Some say that ethics comes from knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. Sure, there are ways to cheat and get around rules with little or no consequence, but is that the way you want to run your business?

Just as there are right and wrong ways to run your company, there are also correct and incorrect ways to manage your media relations efforts. Before you create or adjust your media relations strategy, it is important to be aware of the ethical issues involved to ensure that you don’t damage your reputation in the pursuit of news coverage.


During a crisis

Picture it: Your company is embroiled in trouble. Perhaps the CEO said something offensive online and it has gone viral, one of your products caused damage or illness or there has been a security breach that compromised customer or company information. Whatever the situation, the media is banging on your door. What do you do?

You may be tempted to provide misleading information or embellish the truth just to get them to go away. While this is not illegal, it would be unethical.

The right PR firm will help you craft your responses and answer those questions truthfully, ethically and work to save your reputation. They will assist you in deciding how much information to release, when to release it and on which communication channels.

When you have a product launch

The scenario: Your company is about to introduce a new product and you want to generate buzz before the official launch. So far, focus groups have been lukewarm in their opinions and reviews, but you have invested considerable time and resources in this product and you need to show results. What will you do?

You may consider offering a journalist or blogger a free sample, exclusive access or compensation in exchange for a glowing article about your new product. The reporter may actually like the product and give an honest and positive review, but this is still unethical.

It is okay to grant exclusives and provide samples, but you should not expect or demand special consideration. If an organization gives a journalist a product or service for free, she must disclose this and any other relationship with the company to the reader.

A good PR agency will develop a strategy to attract media, generate interest and promote sales for your company and products. They will identify newsworthy elements, spread your messages on social media, produce events and drive momentum.

The use of video and images

The situation: Your company holds an event that was not very well attended, so before sending the video to the media, you splice in crowd footage from a different (well-attended) event. Or, during an event, you miss a photo op with your CEO and a key influencer in your industry, so you decide to Photoshop him in later and send the picture to the media. The industry bigwig posed for so many photos, she won’t remember anyway, so what’s the big deal, right?

Are these situations harmful? No. Are they unethical? Yes. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. It’s fine to add text or edit for clarity, but not to mislead. Manipulation of images is considered deceitful, and if you are discovered, your entire operation could be viewed as suspect.

Your PR firm can show you the importance of visuals for media exposure, audience engagement and social media interactions. They can help you use images and special effects to maintain key relationships, deliver messages and generate publicity… the right way.

At Axia Public Relations, we will help you increase your positive news coverage and visibility while staying on the right side of ethics. Contact us today or download our e-book, Learn Media Relations from the Media, for more information.

Lisa-G-Color-SM.jpgLisa Goldsberry is a writer for Axia Public Relations with more than 15 years of public relations experience. She specializes in business and technology PR. Connect with Axia Public Relations on Twitter at @axiapr.








Featured image credit: 123rf.com

Topics: media relations, public relations, ethics

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