Sunday, October 6, 2013

PR Is No Jim Carrey

Rachel Sharkey

In the movie, Yes Man, the lead character is forced to say yes to any question posed to him. The simple word makes for a complex series of events—complicating some aspects of his life and simplifying others.

Photo Credit: 260321391's Social Context Blog
In Scripps School of Journalism, there are two tracks students may choose to complete. One is Strategic Communication and the other is News & Information. I have chosen the News & Information track, although some of my future goals overlap with those in the Strategic Communications track.

To be honest, I had this perception that the other track was the dark side of journalism—the dark, voiceless side—where all professionals just scrambled to please whichever client they were assigned to. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but occasionally this is how traditional journalists view PR and the relentless work they do.

CEO Doesn’t Always Know Best

I can confidently say after reading the Bulldog Reporter's article titled "PR Ethics and Reputation: PR Professionals Are Not "Yes Men" When Pressured to Be Unethical, New Baylor Study Finds," PR is not just another Jim Carrey movie. One quote in the study by Baylor revealed a participant that noted “one reason for her good relationship with her company CEO is that ‘he can count on me to not always agree with him.’” This CEO and employee’s relationship is how the current state of the media should operate—offering the opinion of the devil’s advocate where all the other sees is reassurance.

Mother Knows Best

My mother is in human resources, and she recently told me that the No. 1 reported complaint by employees across the nation is feeling underappreciated by management. This statement, coupled with PRSA's piece on ethics and responsibility, drove the lesson home. About halfway into the article, the author outlines a few factors that will encourage even the most honest of people to take ethical shortcuts.  The factors were as follows:

·   Intense pressure by management to reach unrealistic goals or targets (like the situation with the Atlanta public school system).
·   Demands that they must consistently beat the competition (as was the case with News of the World).
·   Management’s willingness to overlook small but persistent breaches of policy or ethics if the employee gets results.
·   Fear of job loss or internal competitive disadvantage.

The CEO of the company is responsible for creating an environment that encourages curiosity, accuracy, appreciation and the open flow of ideas. When this environment is achieved, an ethical company is born. It is reported in The Strategist that some CEO’s are now swearing to ethical decision making in writing. I think that there are fewer better ways to hold someone to the practices they preach than by putting it in writing. After all, the one passion journalists have no matter what track they’re on is our passion for words.
And a company that holds itself to the ethical standards they have set forth is something to which everyone can say "yes."

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