“The days of PR spin, lightweight messaging and covering up corporate activity are long gone. PR is the corporate conscience”
-Chris Wermann, corporate affairs director of Home Retail Group.
After reading an article in PRWeek by Ruth Wyatt, I was drawn to really question the motives driving me towards a career in public relations. Do I simply desire a comfortable salary? Do I just want to write and use social media as a career? As I examined my drive, I found it delves so much deeper: I aspire to use my public relations skills to make a difference in my community and the professional realm. Specifically, my dedication to non-profit organizations stems from a zeal to see organizations grow and for professionals to thrive with passion for their work. Despite public relations’ history of scrutiny, ultimately PR professionals are responsible for ethical practice and should use their skills to make a difference in the community.
First, let us define the subject at hand: public relations is a management function in which a company or organization builds and maintains relationships with various publics. This definition of PR as a management function is relatively new; now-a-days, the public relations team is represented at the top-tier of business, which is a grand evolution from its previous position.
“Ten years ago the communications team was often the last to know what was going on. It was at the end of the food chain and not properly plugged into the inner workings of the business or the board,” says Stuart Jackson, former communications director at EE. Now that the past days of PR spin are but a memory, the field is climbing the organizational ladder and taking greater responsibility in reputation management activities.
In order to avoid returning to a dark place, public relations professionals need to proactively develop ethical practices. As a service to our communities, ourselves, and to continually bring esteem to the profession, PR teams need to develop values for truth and proper representation of the organizations they are employed by. Though some company priorities may not align with ethical practice, we’re responsible to put our foot down on unethical actions- if your company relationship ends and you’ve developed a reputation as an unethical representative, you carry that weight with you for the rest of your career. We can help shape the overall reputation of the field by meeting clients’ objectives with effectiveness and a respect for ethical representation.
You can start taking professional steps now to shine a light on ethical practice by reading articles on public relations mishaps; challenge yourself to analyze what went wrong, how situations should have been handled, and look for warning signs of where ethics began to be cast aside. Remember these signs for your future career or in any situations you may face at an internship!
By: Brooke LeMunyon
Brooke is a junior mass communications major with advertising and english minors. In addition to PRSSA-UD, she is also a leader in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and a brother in Alpha Phi Omega. Follow Brooke on Twitter using @brookelemunyon.