Nowhere to Hide — Transparency, Communication, Integrity Protect Reputation

By Joan Hunter

*My Summary, Plus Full Speech, of GFW PRSA Ethics Month Speaker John “Pat” Philbin, Crisis1 CEO and former FEMA official.

Unethical practices or actions “are going to come out,” said John “Pat” Philbin, president and CEO of Crisis1, in Washington D.C.

Speaking to one of the largest-attended GFW PRSA monthly programs during our chapter’s September Ethics month, the former director of external affairs of FEMA, offered his personal experience and professional expertise on how public relations professionals can help protect and defend their organizations against unethical conduct charges – whether unintended, true or publicly misperceived.

As an Accredited Public Relations (APR) professional and long-time member of PRSA, Philbin emphasized the importance of leading our organizations to adhere to PRSA’s national code of ethics.

Philbin graciously agreed to allow the Fort Worth Chapter to share the text of his remarks which can be accessed at the end of some of his major points I’ve summarized here:

*Philbin emphasized that PR professionals must match the speed of traditional news media in getting their organization’s own messages out simultaneously, not just to news media but to all their key audiences.

His observations about the environment in which our organizations operate today included:

*Today, speed is viewed as “more important than accuracy.”

*(As a result of this environment), “we also can observe the role of technology and influence of immediacy in watching reporters who monitor twitter accounts and broadcast reports live without so much as qualifying the veracity of the information.”

*“PRSA’s Code of Ethics requires us to advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information that serves the public interest. It is one of the primary reasons that I entered this profession in the mid-1980s.”

*“…We as communicators must embrace and leverage the capability it (technology) provides by getting critical information to those who matter most to our organizations because we will be held to a much higher standard than the media if the information is inaccurate.”

*“I believe it is imperative to help organizations create trust with those who matter most. One way to accomplish this is to promote and enhance transparency throughout our organizations.”

*“The interesting thing about being transparent is that it can actually reduce risk.”

*“Doing the right thing and performing well is necessary but not sufficient. An organization that does the right thing well can be quickly dismissed, marginalized, bankrupted, you-name-it, if it does not communicate well.”

*“As a communications professional, there is little I can do to help a client if they aren’t doing what they say they are doing. Integrity is the only currency we have in public relations.”

*Philbin’s 25+ year career includes public and international affairs, business development, change management, crisis communication, media relations, reputation management and strategic planning with top-level senior governmental officials and company executives. He may be reached at
jphilbin@crisis1.net or www.crisis1net.

Read the full text of Philbin’s remarks.

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