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Public Relations (PR) has, at times, come under criticism for the value and credibility of its communication outputs. From widespread issues of ‘fake news’ in the media to one-off client overpromises – here we take a look at why it’s so important to act with integrity when working in PR.
The Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) exists to uphold standards in the PR and communications industry through its global ‘Professional Charter’, which addresses sector specific ethical standards. All professionals, who are PRCA members, are required to act at all times with the highest standards of integrity, professionalism and conduct work in an ethical manner reflecting the principles applied by the ethical charter. Ethical considerations should be made in alignment to industry guidelines, to ensure discipline, honesty, openness, loyalty, respect, integrity and transparency by PR professionals.
Codes of conduct
As a PR professional, not only is it crucial to ensure all content you produce and disseminate is 100% honest, it is important to regard transparent client management just as highly. As a PR professional in the UK, members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) are bound by the industry’s ‘Code of Conduct’, promising to:
- maintain the highest standards of professional endeavour, integrity, confidentiality, financial propriety and personal conduct
- deal honestly and fairly in business with employers, employees, clients, fellow professionals, other professions and the public
- respect, in their dealings with other people, the legal and regulatory frameworks and codes of all countries where they practice
- uphold the reputation of, and do nothing that would bring into disrepute, the public relations profession or the Chartered Institute of Public Relations
Integrity and honesty are further highlighted as core fundamentals of the profession, with industry regulated goals for good PR practice. The first rule ensures that clients, employers, employees, colleagues and fellow professionals are fully informed about the nature of representation, what can be delivered and achieved, and what other parties must do in order to enable the desired result.
The second rule of honest practice is to never deliberately conceal the practitioners’ role as representative of a client or employer, even if the client or employer remains anonymous, for example by promoting a cause in the guise of a disinterested party or member of the public.
And lastly, but by no means least importantly, is sound checking the reliability and accuracy of information before issuing communications.
What does this mean in practice?
As a communications consultant, when you receive a brief, it is vital to be analysing the given project thoroughly. Preparatory steps should be taken to dissect the task, give extra time (if needed) for desk top research and review the media landscape and agenda relevant to the client industry and goal at hand.
To act with complete integrity, rather than overpromising unattainable results, PR practitioners should provide in-depth expertise and counsel, giving recommendations and a plan to achieve the desired outcome.
To ensure honesty in all content crafted for PR purposes, it is the professionals’ responsibility to fact-check everything stated. Remember, PR at its core is positive relationship management, which is very hard to maintain without upholding values of trust.
As PR experts, clients are dependent on our specialist knowledge and relationships with the media. If issues arise, such as envisioning poor media response, it is ALWAYS best practice to challenge the brief to the client – that’s what we’re here to do! Don’t be afraid to pivot the approach, or idea. Without acting with honesty and integrity, PR professionals are very unlikely to be able to deliver client objectives, which can lead to a damaged client or media relationship (and sometimes both)!
For further support from our team, you can check out our latest podcast episode from season 6, ‘Why can’t my PR agency guarantee me media coverage?’
If you’re struggling to find the perfect PR team for you, why not take a look at our ‘PR Buyer’s Guide’ – a one-stop-shop for all the tools you need to source the best agency for your business!
Communication is critical to business success and when done well it is one of the most cost-effective ways to build trust and credibility for your company. Sign up to our Confident Communication Planning service and we will take care of the rest!