By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
On this last day of September, the month that the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) makes a concerted effort to promote ethical practices among members, I was inspired by an article that was published online by Ad Age, a leading industry publication that (you guessed it) primarily covers the advertising business.
Here’s what drove me, a long-standing member of PRSA, to share the following thoughts.
The article, “PR Implosions: How Four Marketers Answered Calamity,” certainly has merits. Four authors each address a recent product or service crisis and offer analysis on how the crisis was managed.
You’re probably familiar with each crisis, as the companies profiled are global brands and the resulting breakdown from each crisis generated lots of news coverage and commentary; so there’s no need for an extensive recap.
What stood out to me was — and I’ve addressed this topic before — how “public relations” was given the focus of the “crisis” problem. This is exemplified in the headline and in lines like “the onslaught of PR disasters” and “Talk about a PR blunder.”
Shout out to the Ad Age copy editor and the authors whose writing I just referenced: “Public relations” practices did not initiate these crisis situations! “Public relations” did not cause electronic devises to malfunction, and “pubic relations” did not forcibly remove a man from an airliner. These were design and manufacturing errors, human and management blunders. When will those who write about public relations get that concept right?
Okay, where does ethics enter the discussion here?
One principle of the PRSA Code Provisions of Conduct is Enhancing the Profession. Under the list of guidelines for this principle is this:
- Acknowledge that there is an obligation to protect and enhance the profession.
So, as a public relations professional who takes what I do seriously, it’s my ethical responsibility to call out situations where the practice of public relations is wrongly equated with failures in manufacturing, service, production or operations.
There, I feel better.
From October 8 to 10, PRSA will hold its 2017 International Conference in Boston. Unfortunately, I can’t attend. But I hope those in attendance debate the topic addressed here.