It's all in the word — public relations

As a PR pro, you are constantly in the public eye, representing your brand with the relationships you build and the authority that your brand creates through campaigns and media presence.

But what happens when your need for brand success gets a bit out of hand and you turn a blind eye to certain values or issues that should actually be addressed?

Being in the PR industry makes you a powerful person — and the minute that you realise how much influence you have, you decide if you will use it for the better or for the worse.

So wait, what on earth can make a PR pro go rogue? Well, look in the mirror and be honest — have you ever:
  • suppressed news that was not favourable to your brand?
  • said that you will promote or donate to a cause but your involvement is actually to your own benefit?
  • made promises that you cannot keep?
  • manipulated the truth and caused a polarised viewpoint?
  • negatively influence children through targeted marketing?
Yes, these are big offences that have ongoing implications. This is why you need to be aware of why ethics matter. If you stay oblivious to your role in society and the power that you have, you may be the cause of lasting effects that are not so beneficial to companies or individuals. And you don't want to be that person!

So PR pro, media update's Jana van der Westhuizen is here to help you get a clear image of how your reputation really looks and why you should care about being ethical in your daily duties.

PR pros, here are a few reasons why you need to stay ethical: 

Creating polarised viewpoints is a big no

Within the public relations industry, there are many brands, people and (of course) opinions.  As a normal human being, it can be very difficult to stay objective in a subjective society.

But, if you bring your personal viewpoint to a certain matter, you may cause your audience to see a campaign in a different light

When your brand repeatedly shows your consumer only one side of a story, or you focus too much on a specific topic or person, your audience will not be aware of the full spectrum and will believe what you tell them.

Let's take the age-old example of a political election. When you are promoting a certain person, you will target your audience by only saying and showing them the good stuff about that individual —  or in some cases even bashing the opponent. Zero transparency there!

Now, this creates a serious polarised view as you withhold your consumers from deciding what they want for themselves by not providing them with both sides of the argument.

So take feelings out of the matter and be transparent in all your communications.

Don't fabricate a false sense of hope

Yes, the public relations industry can be a dog-eat, dog world. You need to sell your brand at all costs and make your client seem as if they are the best thing since sliced bread. 

But what if your effort goes overboard and you make a promise you cannot actually keep? All of your efforts are to only get consumer engagement for a campaign and, after your goals are reached, you say bye Felicia to your loyal audience. Not cool.

When you lure your consumers in by, for example, asking them to take part in a campaign where they can win money or a vacation, you have to act on your word and have prizes ready for a handout. You cannot just gather their information and not deliver on your end. 

When your campaign has numerous people competing, you can easily get away with announcing a random winner — but this is not ethical. You create a false sense of hope and you do not keep to your word, which will garner your brand a negative reputation.

Don't just work for the likes and engagement — do what you say.

Brand bashing is not okay 

This might be the worst villain of them all. 

Let's get one thing straight … Just because your competitor’s brand is performing better than yours doesn't mean you need to bring them down. Rather, just be better!

We have all seen adverts or speeches where brands try to target one another to poach their audience by telling them that their offering is so much better. 

As a PR guru, it is your job to keep tabs on your competitors to learn from them and to see where you can improve. To change your brand strategy is fine, but maliciously trying to target a brand is not cool.

  • give other brands bad ratings, or ask your employees or audience to do so
  • steal your competitor's campaign ideas, or bash their offering with innuendos
  • head-hunt their key employees, and
  • cultivate a workplace where employees can bash other brands.
Rather work hard, focus on your own strategy and excel the old-fashioned way!

Keep your financial security intact

Yes, basically you can lose your job if you are not ethical. 

If your audience notices that your brand is not ethical, they will walk away. We live in an era where people are sick and tired of the abuse and being lied to.

Our society wants your honesty to form consumer loyalty.

If you are not honest and transparent, you stand a chance to lose your trusted consumers and your revenue will decrease leaving you in a financial crisis

So, it is plain and simple: If you want the moola, then don't mess around with ethics — the truth always comes to light!

PR pro, how do you ensure that your brand image is portrayed in an ethical light? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Want to learn more about how you can face a PR crisis with confidence? Then here are Five ways to handle a public relations crisis.
*Image courtesy of Canva