Recently a couple of us HBers went to an event on Social Media sponsored by Business Wire. During the Q&A session, a woman stood up and, embedded in her string of remarks, said, “I know there are a lot of PR people in the room and that the role of PR people is to help companies hide bad news and sweep things under the rug…”Yikes? Is that really the perception?
For the record, that is not the role of PR people, nor is such practice a way for companies to succeed. Note prominent examples that have nearly become cliches: Johnson & Johnson’s success resulting from the integrity with which it handled the Tylenol scare of 1982, and Exxon’s ongoing disaster following the Valdez under-rug sweeping!
If you do face a crisis, or even a questionable situation, “doing what’s right” specific to the law, customers and the public is often the best way to emerge unscathed or better. There will be finesse in communicating about a difficult situation. And too much information can be harmful… but a controlled message delivered with integrity and honesty is a far cry from “sweeping under the rug.” I invite anyone practicing PR to follow a code of conduct based on integrity and honesty to help combat any impression that our profession is about sweeping things under the rug!
By the way, take a look at the Public Relations Society of America‘s comprehensive Member Code of Conduct. Whether you’re a PRSA member or not, these guidelines are appropriate to all of us in marketing and communications.