November 29th, 2012
Why PR Should Drop Those Lacking Integrity
As a PR consultant, I was explaining to a contact yesterday, you can be asked to represent all types of business, organisation and community enterprise. Most seek PR to build their brand, generate enquiries or launch their product or service. The odd few have the motive of purely trying to paper over the cracks created by a lack of integrity within the ‘body’ they seek to promote.
Personally, I cannot reconcile myself to this. It is as clear as day to anyone who knows me that if I have no respect for someone at a personal level, I cannot pretend to do so. Take this to another level and consider the press. If they have no respect for what an organisation is, does or the ethics it is led by, they will not hesitate to say so. PR is about managing reputation, but it cannot manage reputations based on thin air and void of any integrity: nor should it do so.
On this basis, I truly believe that it is not possible – at least in the longer term – for any PR programme to create ‘spin’ that is totally at odds with the actual ethics of the organisation or individual/s at its helm. The golden rule of crisis PR is ‘never lie to the press’ and there is a very good reason for that. The moment you are found out, you will be hung out to dry, very publically and in an irrevocably damaging way.
Undoubtedly, PR consultants and in house PR professionals can be duped into papering over the cracks in the short term. Anyone can appear to be what they are not until their mask slips and the true individuals emerge. At this point, it truly is time for a PR person to get out and let them plot their own public destruction as the witch-hunt unfolds.
Although it can be very hard to say ‘no’ sometimes, it has to be done the minute that regard, respect or whatever you wish to call it disappears from the relationship, regardless of the financial implications. If you are a PR consultant faced with this, be brave. Better to resign an account than lose your own integrity by representing an unethical organisation. Not all organisations come with a ‘fit and proper’ regulation label stuck to them to give you a PR health warning and the most unfit individuals can end up in jobs where they are dealing with people, children and funds they should never be allowed to have contact with.
Anyone believing that PR can be the panacea for their lack of integrity should beware, as their end is probably nigh. I shall sum up by making reference to an episode of Doctor Who in which, annoyed with the lack of ethics of the politician Harriet Jones, he says that he can bring her house of cards tumbling down with just six words. Believe me, fewer words, whispered in the right ear can do much more than that.