Honesty and Transparency in Public Relations

This week, I had the great opportunity to speak with Ferris State University’s PRSSA chapter. Not only was it a chance to give them an idea of how a public relations pro got his start, it allowed me to give them advice they may not normally get in an academic setting.Some of the points I made during the talk:

  • Want a job when you graduate? Use your PR skills & put a plan together.
  • Research and know the company you’re applying to. Go to their website and study the job requirements.
  • PR and marketing professionals need to be open, transparent, and honest.

That last bullet was the one thing I wanted to make sure was driven home. The faster we all learn in PR, marketing, and social media that being honest and open in our communications is important, the easier it will be to do the job right.

Sound like a broken record? Well, unfortunately this is something that needs to be hammered home time and time again. Let’s take BlackBerry and Former NY Rep. Anthony Weiner for example. One is a huge smartphone company; the other was a respected elected official.

BlackBerry has been dealing with PR issues for the last year. The PlayBook was supposed to ship in early 2011. It didn’t. Research in Motion (makers of the BlackBerry) made excuses. What should they have done? Be honest. Tell your stakeholders, fans, and customers that you want to make a great product. They failed to do that. Now, the PlayBook is a joke.

In Weiner’s case, he created his own PR fail. He denied that he sent lewd photos to a follower over Twitter in late May. Then, he sat down during a TV interview and said he couldn’t say “with certitude” that he sent the pic. By mid-June, he finally admitted that he sent the pics and resigned. If he had just been truthful from the start, the end result may have been different.

The teachable moment for both new and experienced pros here is that we can never think for a moment that it is ok to hide the truth. If you are part of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), you adhere to the Code of Ethics. Once you are labeled as dishonest, it’s pretty hard for anyone – a fellow pro or the media – to trust you again.

Don’t let your career reach that point.

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