Ethical public relations: an oxymoron?

My first-ever PR textbook, the Manual of Public Relations, wasted no time in getting to the subject of ethics in public relations. It was section 1.5.

In those days PR was perhaps a more staid profession. But, now, when ‘smoke and mirrors’, political spin, misinformation and vacuous hype seem to be the norm in some circles, you might be forgiven for thinking that the term “ethical public relations” is actually an oxymoron.

Good and Evil

Some people in the profession haven’t exactly helped the ethical message along the way. One executive in a top international public relations company apparently reminded his staff that: “We’d represent Satan if he paid”!

But public relations is all about trust. The public relations adviser has to trust those briefing him to tell him all the relevant facts. Then, the public and the media have to trust the public relations message.

If that trust breaks down, then all is lost. And, once trust is lost, it is very difficult, or even impossible, to regain.

Personally, after 26 years in public relations consultancy, I remain convinced that ethics in public relations is as important as ever.

The truth is always the best policy.
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