That is, time for media pitches. Time for research. Time for interviews. Time for reports. And, most important of all, time for writing.
It turns out that his statement was only half-true.
As PR professionals, we sell both our time and our integrity. One is not effective without the other. If you spend too much time on an account, the client will balk at your billable hours. Likewise, if you lose your integrity in pursuit of the Next Big Hit or sell out to unscrupulous supervisors, you have lost it forever.
I’m a past president of the Orange County Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. One of the things that drew me to become a member was its Code of Ethics and strong commitment to the truth.
While PRSA argues, I think rightfully, for the public relations professional’s place in the board room with other high-level executives like attorneys and CFOs, its every argument is backed up by a strong code that bonds us together. We first and foremost adhere to the code in everything we do; anything else we add to the mix is gravy.
Why are we so committed to guarding our integrity?
As PRSA Fellow Kirk Hazlett writes in PRSay in September 2017, “Because the public relations field, like many other professions, is still regarded with skepticism by some based on the all-too-public shenanigans of a few of our community who refer to themselves as ‘public relations professionals’ but whose credentials are, at best, spotty. And their actions are taken to represent the way in which we all operate.”
True enough. Anyone with the audacity to hang up a shingle can call herself a public relations professional. My other reason for joining PRSA was so I could test for and receive accreditation in public relations, a title that determines one’s knowledge, ethics and commitment.
As Hazlett points out, “the tools used by public relations professionals in the conduct of their services to clients or employers are increasing exponentially. For those of us who have been around long enough to remember the advent of that remarkable time-saving gizmo called a ‘facsimile machine,’ today’s options can be mind-boggling. We think we’ve got a handle on the do’s and don’ts of the various platforms; then along comes a new means of communicating and, with it, a whole new menu of potential ethical mishaps.”
Using PRSA’s vast database of best practices, members can be assured they know the right way to use social media. But that is just one example of the ways the organization ensures we operate with the best information in the most ethical ways possible.
“Ethical thought and action isn’t an on-again/off-again ‘nice to know’ aspect of a public relations professional’s existence,” Hazlett notes. “It is an all-encompassing, never-ending responsibility that serves as a sign to others of the realities of our field.”
Indeed, Hazlett sums up, “Ethics should occupy a key position in everyone’s repertoire of knowledge, skills and abilities. It should be top-of-mind in our day-to-day activities. Regardless of where we are or what we are doing, ethical practice and behavior should always be at the forefront.”
If I leave you with nothing else after you finish this blog, remember that PR is more than news releases and crisis planning. Time matters. But so too do the ethics you incorporate into your every PR practice.