Monday, January 28, 2008

Public Relations = Ethics

When I started this blog, I swore to myself that I would not write about anything negative going on in the state of Michigan. We've got the 24/7, never-ending negative recaps on news stations, Web sites, blogs, RSS feeds (shall I continue) to report the negativity that somehow never seems to dissipate. But, as a public relations professional, I felt compelled to write about this despite the bitter taste it leaves in the mouths of many of those who share the same passion I feel for PR.

Mary Kramer, publisher of Crain's Detroit Business, posted a blog that further solidifies what was ingrained in my head the day I started learning about public relations (thank you CMU profs) : Ethics is the foundation upon which PR was built. Without ethics, my profession means nothing. Without exemplifying honesty and truthfulness, my profession is meaningless. Unfortunately, a very well-known PR agency based in Grand Rapids that prides itself in its ability to provide solid crisis communications forgot (maybe intentionally) to be ethical. Ironic, huh?

I will not go more in depth (read Mary's blog) about what exactly this PR firm did (and what its client did) that if proven, was not only illegal, but a true embarrassment to the PR industry. I won't do that because that goes against the positive outlook I showcase in this blog, and the positive outlook I have regarding the profession I'm proud to be ingrained in. But I do have to give props to Mary because she is just shy of an M.S. degree in marketing and is currently enrolled in a PR class. Now unless you're in the profession, you have NO IDEA what a blessing it is when journalists befriend PR pros and understand that we are more than just the stereotypical flacks who "spin" the truth to make our clients shine. But Mary gets it. She confirms that "ethics in PR is a major issue." Now, PR pros may know how to craft the perfect pitch to garner the media's attention or put the right angle on a press release to make a company's product/event/philanthropic work stand out -- but we do it honestly and ethically. There is no room for lies (no, not even teeny tiny white lies) in the profession of PR. This well-known PR firm and its client may very well end up being a case study in future PR classes, maybe even Mary's. But hopefully it will serve as yet another lesson to all of us as to why admitting to failure up front (and then outlining how you plan to fix the mistake), or choosing the honest road (no matter how difficult or bumpy it may be) will ultimately make us stronger, more trustworthy and well-respected in the long run.

Thanks, Mary for writing a very thought-provoking post to remind us why in all walks of life, being ethical is not one quality you want to lack.

No comments: