The Many Blessings of Ethical PR

The Many Blessings of Ethical PR

The holidays is a natural time to take stock of our relationships. While horror stories and jokes abound regarding tension and awkwardness around the extended family table, by and large this is a time for counting our blessings—people first among them.

Consider, for example, the release of the movie “Wonder,” starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, on November 17, a week before Thanksgiving. The film highlights human compassion and acceptance and is already proving to be a great cinematic choice for the entire family.

Good relationships are popular themes this time of year, when good will is at the forefront of our minds and hearts. Good relationships are also a lot like good public relations.

While the practice of public relations has significantly evolved since its emergence in the early 1900s, its basic principles remain the same. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) holds its members to these core values:

  • Advocacy: acting as responsible advocates for the people and organizations PR professionals represent
  • Honesty: adhering to the highest standards of accuracy and truth
  • Expertise: continuing professional development, research and education
  • Independence: providing objective counsel to those represented, while being accountable for one’s actions
  • Loyalty: being faithful to those represented
  • Fairness: respecting all opinions and supporting the right of free expression

We don’t have to look too hard to see that each of these values closely parallels the attributes of healthy personal relationships.

Good friends and family will always go to bat for loved ones, and true friends will tell us the truth, whether we like it or not (family seems to be especially good at it!).

On the surface, expertise is not immediately relateable to human relationships, but consider how parents are continually studying up on how best to raise their children; spouses sometimes go to marriage counseling or on couples’ retreats, and if someone we care for has a problem or concern, we often find ourselves on the Internet looking for information and answers to help them out.

Providing objective counsel to friends and, particularly, family can be difficult, as so much of ourselves is invested in these relationships. But there is tremendous value in stepping back and taking one’s self out of the equation. When this isn’t possible, the best approach can be to encourage a loved one to seek neutral counsel from an outside party or offer to search reputable resources or advice on their behalf.

Loyalty is a no-brainer in maintaining healthy personal relationships, as are fairness and support of our friends’ and family’s feelings and opinions.

Let’s also consider this statement from the website of the Museum of Public Relations in New York City: “Words cannot be unsaid.” No truer words were ever written. The site’s blurb is referring to William Henry Vanderbilt, who infamously said “The public be damned” to a reporter who confronted Vanderbilt with the people’s resentment of his railroad monopoly. Oops.

Few of us haven’t said something we wish we could shove back into our mouths, never to have been uttered. How many relationships have been damaged by such words? And what amount of effort and energy has been expended in repairing the damage? Sometimes, the effort isn’t made, or not properly made, and the relationship crumbles for good.

This, too, can happen in public relations, if not carefully and ethically implemented.

Not long after Vanderbilt’s verbal offense, public relations expert and “The Father of Modern Public Relations” Ivy Lee declared to city newspaper editors that “The public shall be informed.” Lee also helped John D. Rockefeller’s public image change from a “vilified oil baron” to a beloved philanthropist. Ah, the power of good PR.

Today, PR is primarily about engaging audiences, rather than simply informing them. Again, the parallels to human relationships are unmistakable. No real relationship can be sustained without engagement from all involved. It’s interesting to note here that the word “engagement” is most commonly used to convey a couple’s intention to spend the rest of their lives together.

The more public relations professionals look at relationships with their audiences or clients like treasured friends and family, the more all parties will gain from the interpersonal connections.

Let our team of experts show you how combining the values of ethical PR with the hallmarks of good personal relationships amounts to meaningful communications worth knowing about and engaging in.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!