Should You Be Held Accountable?
Forbes posted an article recently that in summary says that those associated with the current White House administration should be held accountable for their words and actions these past four years. And if a company chooses to employ a member of the administration, in particular communications staffers, then the magazine, in no uncertain terms, “will assume that everything your company or firm talks about is a lie.”
Wow. That’s a pretty strong stance, but one that I, and several of my colleagues around the country, wholeheartedly support. As PR professionals, our integrity, honesty and ethical practices are critical to our success. Even in issues management situations, where we might be representing the unfavorable side of the issue, lying is never acceptable. In fact, we tell prospects that we will never avoid the media’s calls, that “no comment” is not an option and no matter how unpleasant the truth may be, it is the only thing we can support. Our reputation, as well as those we represent, is on the line.
I am an active member of the Public Relations Society of America and Counselors Academy, a professional interest section for owners and managers of public relations agencies. As a PRSA member, we agree to abide by its Code of Ethics.
Honesty: We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.
Fellow Counselors Academy member and friend Ben Finzel of RENEWPR in Washington, D.C., shared the following, which summarizes perfectly what being honest and truthful means. I share these excerpts with his permission:
“As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ I have been a public affairs communications professional in Washington, D.C., for 30 years, serving as a congressional press secretary and legislative director, a presidential appointee in a communications role and a public relations firm executive. This is the world I’ve lived in and worked in for my entire career. I read and then enthusiastically shared the Forbes article above on social media a few days ago. To me, this is not a debatable question. There are not ‘two sides’ to ethics and integrity. Either you have them or you don’t.”
“Their (press secretaries) actions do damage to our profession and make it harder for us to do our jobs. They should not be hired as spokespeople or communications professionals when they have demonstrated that they don’t follow the principles of our profession. That is not ‘cancel culture,’ that is simply common sense.”
“And to be clear, if there are similar examples of other press secretaries in other presidential administrations (of either party) acting similarly, I believe they should not be hired in similar roles either. This is not about ‘politics,’ it is about ethics, and yes, about morality.”
“Seeing a conservative, pro-business outlet like Forbes take up the mantle against their lies and their egregious behavior is both helpful and hopeful. We must draw the line and speak up on behalf of our profession and our commitment to honesty and integrity.”