Monday, September 12, 2016

Good for the people or good for the press?

Vanessa Copetas

When it comes to the media,  those in the public relation field need to think about how their writing will affect not only their client, but their audience as well. Take the presidential election, for example. One of the Public Relations Society of America codes of conduct is "honesty," where they state that they "adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public". 

Now, if we take the example of Hilary Clinton's public relations team, are they lying to the public when they fail to mention her wrong doings? "Loyalty" is difficult when you must be, " faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest." We are loyal to the client, but are we loyal to the audience by not mentioning the bad within the good?

It's a difficult situation, but one could argue that this is where journalists come in. If journalists can reveal the good and the bad in a situation, the audience has the resources to educate themselves correctly since the facts are out there.

The only problem that is left is that public relations practitioners are not meeting their code of "loyalty". If we focus strongly on the wording, the professionals are expected to be loyal to their audience to serve their interest, or in other words, important information. Since the audience does have information that isn't hidden from other forms of media, wouldn't we being contradicting when we talk about the wonderful actions our client has taken but also highlight his or her faults? 

Though one would argue that it is necessary to inform the public, I believe that it harms our client more than it helps. If the issue is so large that it made national news, then there is a good chance that your audience knows. When PR practitioners choose to redact information that could potentially ruin their client's reputation, they do it more so to protect their client, rather than harm the people.

No one choses to highlight their flaws, instead they showcase their strengths. This directly correlates to public relations professionals choosing to focus on the positive actions their client has done (or plans to do) and stay silent about his or her failures.

In a post by PR Week, a public relation professional referred to those who work in PR as "professional manipulators." While critics will agree, the author made a point that it's important to stop and ask ourselves questions about how we are handling our responsibility and to check if we are still following our codes of conduct. 

"How much do you lie?  Do you define your job as framing messages, or interpreting the information to fit a set strategy?," are two important questions that those in public relations should be able to answer. There is a difference between bending the truth or choosing to forgo including certain information. Additionally, there is a difference between changing facts to fit a mold you want your client to fit into and comparing their strengths to something that is positive.

Choosing to not include something your client said that would make him or her look bad is fine, lying about what your client has done to make them look good, is not. Deceptive? Possibly, but regardless for your client, if their flaws are showcased, somehow there is always the saying, "there is no such thing as bad publicity".

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