The PR industry took an unfair hit from legal analyst Andrew Cohen of CBS related to former White House Press Secretary’s new tell-all book. In his report, Cohen accuses PR professionals of making a living on untruths. He even calls out PRSA’s ethics:
Apparently, an industry the very essence of which is to try to convince people that a turkey is really an eagle has a rule that condemns lying.
The Public Relations Society of America states: “We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent…” This clause strikes me as if the Burglars Association of America had as its creed “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”
Show me a PR person who is “accurate” and “truthful,” and I’ll show you a PR person who is unemployed.
PRSA wrote a response to Cohen that warrants repeating as many times as possible:
Dear Mr. Cohen,
Contrary to baseless assertions, truth and accuracy are the bread and butter of the public relations profession. In a business where success hinges on critical relationships built over many years with clients, journalists and a Web 2.0-empowered public, one’s credibility is the singular badge of viability. All professionals, including attorneys, accountants and physicians, aspire to ethical standards, and public relations professionals are no different, always striving for the ideal.
For public relations professionals, engaging diverse and often skeptical audiences requires top-flight skills in communications, creativity and even persuasion, but a trust once lost cannot be regained. Unemployment, contrary to your opinion, is reserved for the professional who has lost his or her credibility.
Read the full letter to Cohen on PRSA’s Web site.
We are encouraged by the immediate response by national PRSA and the opportunity to reiterate the ethical standards to which we should all adhere. It is unfortunate that high-profile situations become media fodder that is then used to paint wide brush strokes over an organization with professionals that seek to reach out and be effective communicators.