Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Life Span of Lies

by Holly (Cameron) Woodruff

The Life Span of the Daily White Lie
According to World Daily Net News, the average person tells four to six lies in the span of an entire day. Although these lies, generally along the lines of "I'm stuck in traffic" or even "I love you," may seem trivial and insignificant, they build a degree of indifference toward lying that develops into a habitual, substantial behavior.

The purpose of a public relations representative is to communicate the issues truthfully, which means the whole truth. This is an especially difficult task considering the human propensity for unrestrained expression of white lies, which may then mature into "truth spinning" or even omission of crucial facts, something PR representatives are asked to do on a daily basis.

One Tough Job Description
It is often the case that public relations representatives are hired to speak on behalf of a company. In doing so, they are generally guided toward painting that company in a good light, which benefits not only their employer and stockholders, but also themselves as the employee, hence the common perception of public relations specialists as "spin doctors." The trickiest part of the PR job is determining where to draw the line between ethical truthfulness and company objectives. Where does their private citizenship end and their public citizenship begin?

The Golden Standard
After years of debate and objective inconsistency, public relations specialists settled on a standard that would address the common tendency to lie by omission, or intentionally deceive those to whom they communicate. Since truthfulness is the goal of the communication, "substantial completeness", a term developed by Tom Beauchamp & Stephen Klaidman helps guide PR professionals.

According to these virtuous journalists, substantial completeness is defined as "the point at which the reasonable person's requirements for information are satisfied." This seems pretty reasonable. It should be the goal of the public relations representative to consider the interpretation of the recipient of the message rather than the goals of the company.

Let's break apart the name: they relate to the public, therefore the public's interpretation of their fact should be their primary concern. Forget the codes of ethics crafted by major companies. Enron's is now selling on eBay for $31. The only ethical code that public relations specialists need to rely on is the one that was instilled in them through their education as journalists. They are well aware of the difference between right communication and wrong communication.

No comments:

Post a Comment