Lies and Secrets: the currency of public relations

You don’t have to dig too far to find criticisms of public relations as involving lying and other less than ethical practices. The normal response from the industry is denial, citation of codes of conduct and finger pointing at isolated ‘others’.

But is lying really an absolute ‘do or don’t do’ matter? In reality, doesn’t everyone tell lies to some extent on a regular basis? So as professional communicators, doesn’t that mean PR practitioners trade in a currency of lies?

Let’s not lie about it.  Shouldn’t we examine the criticisms in more depth – and more importantly, consider how lying does fit into ethical PR practice?

First to the criticisms – there’s an interesting argument here. As PR practitioners are inherently partisan – that is, we’re paid to advocate a particular perspective – our communications are biased. This is extended to mean we cannot be trusted; we are unethical and tell lies. But surely if we are open about the nature of our communications, then our perspective reflects the truth as relates to our employing organization. Others may not like what we say, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

It isn’t a matter that you cannot believe PR practitioners because we are paid to say something. Rather, it should be clear that what we are saying is a particular perspective – you may agree or not, but let’s engage in dialogic or dialectic communications and examine the truths at the basis of our positions. We are not alone in presenting a good image as most people want to be thought well of – after all, isn’t that good manners? Do you share your worst habits with strangers?

Rather than viewing all PR practitioners and their communications as lies, critics need to look more deeply and rightly expose practices where lying is evident.  For example, in a recent PR Conversations post, Nigel Hawkes questioned the use of statistics by PR practitioners. Here we often see deliberate selection of facts, obfuscation and pseudo-science – yes lies. But does that mean every statistic issued by PR practitioners is a lie? Lies, damned lies and PR seems to be exaggerating (ironically).

Beyond these common criticisms, there is an argument for ethical lying in PR practice. Here we’re talking about utilitarian ethics – that is, making a false statement with deliberate intent to deceive for a good reason. This may be in anticipation of consequences that seek to minimise harm or maximise benefits. Or perhaps, the reason is a noble lie – in response to the ‘does my bum look big in this’ type of question. Sometimes in public relations, we are legally or otherwise constrained from saying something, and so tell some form of lie in response. Even the comforting, “I can’t tell you at present” or avoiding questions can be construed as lying. It is, however, part of the reality of working in PR.

Of course there can be negative consequences from lying – as PR’s reputation proves. I’m also not arguing that lying is, or should be, the normal means of communications in PR practice (or elsewhere in society). Trust and truth are closely related, but part of trust means accepting that sometimes people (and organisations) do lie – but their reputation should establish that they would have a good reason for doing so.

Being sceptical about communications is also a good thing – rather than accepting everything (no matter the source), people should ask questions, consider the veracity of a position and test facts and other statements. That’s at the heart of critical thinking; encouraging people to think for themselves and make informed decisions. In public relations, this means acknowledging the competencies of those with whom we communicate as active participants, not passive audiences to be influenced by what we tell them. Exposing our statements to be tested should make us more particular about knowing the source of our claims and being able to justify if we take a particular stance which others may find questionable.

Bok presents the test of publicity – here interestingly, the expertise of PR practitioners may be relevant. The scheme of applied publicity involves considering whether a lie would survive the appeal for justification to reasonable persons. This means reflection personally on the implications of telling a lie – and being aware of the likely response of the public to exposure of the lie.

In public relations, we are used to making decisions about public reactions and assessing the consequences of particular actions. This should include an ethical dimension, which could be based on compliance with laws, rules, codes and so forth. It may also need to be more nuanced and reflect that sometimes adhering to the rules will have negative outcomes – and justify a lie which could, in itself, withstand the air of publicity.

This takes us to a second trading card of public relations: secrets. We may consciously use secrets as a currency in our work. For example, we may calculate the benefits of offering an exclusive story to a particular journalist or media organization. In an age of social media, keeping secrets is more difficult, but there may be good reasons for keeping quiet or managing how information is communicated. Timing is a key element of PR communications and this requires keeping information secret until the optimum point to announce or release it.

It is this secretive nature of public relations that again impacts negatively on its reputation. Michie for example, called us ‘invisible persuaders‘ and it is this lack of understanding of what is involved in public relations that enables people to claim it involves various nefarious purposes.

Not that PR isn’t partially responsible here too. The practice of over-promising in pitching to clients (or bosses), is another form of lying which does what we can achieve a disservice. There is no secret, magical approach to public relations that miraculously will deliver results. PR cannot turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse (although it can be polished a little – without mixing my metaphors!). We cannot guarantee to turn absolute disasters into unmitigated success – and indeed, trying to do so may well result in our own credibility sliding further into the mud.

Let’s be honest about what we can achieve and the full extent of our currency in doing so. We may well trade in lies and secrets – sometimes, when absolutely necessary. That doesn’t make us any more unreliable or dishonest than any other group of humans on the planet. I have told lies in my PR (and personal) life, I’ve also accepted others’ lies even when I know they are untrue. I am party to many secrets (past and present) that I prefer not to share publicly. And I’m sure that I’ll use lies and secrets in my future career. Anyone else wish to confess – or am I the only honest PR practitioner?

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23 Responses to “Lies and Secrets: the currency of public relations”
  1. Trace Cohen says:

    I like to consider it the truth well told as you should never lie because it’s bad business. I know the perspective that you are coming from and appreciate your honesty but it’s an uphill battle to change the perception of the PR industry so admitting that you lie doesn’t help.

    PR professionals are known for “spin” because we have always been at the mercy of what our clients wanted us to say to the media. In an age of social proof, this model doesn’t work anymore. We are the closest to the product and should be able to write a truthful story that will engage our community in a meaningful and honest discussion. I see PR professionals and companies starting to write their own news and rely less on the traditional media.

    • Thanks for your comment Trace – my issue in denying that PR practitioners lie (sometimes not all the time) is that we look like Pollyanna with a false optimism that just doesn’t ring true (ironically). Surely, one of the basic principles of managing an image is that it should be based on a reality. I think it is a cop out to say that we spin because we are instructed to do so. Indeed, by raising the issue of spin, you get into a lot of the problem – where is spinning presenting a positive image (which seems to be what you’re advocating for PR practice as not involving lying) and where is it telling absolute lies. My argument is that we inherently ’spin’ (or retell a corporate narrative if one prefers). Ideally that is based on a foundation of truth (or reality as experienced by those with whom we are engaging). But as with a lie, truth is not an absolute either. I’m also not convinced either that social media exposes lies/truth as cutting through the nonsense is increasingly difficult for people (and will become ever more so with ‘intelligent’ search engines).

      When you talk about PR practitioners writing their own news, surely this is only ever going to be one interpretation of truth (eg carefully selected statistics) and it will require others to engage in the wrangle of debate if they see truth differently. Which will come down to who people trust – of course, lying as I’ve noted adversely affects trust. The importance will be in knowing the basis of information, how it was created and so on. Who will be the arbiters of ‘truth’ going forwards then? Are you suggesting crowdsourcing, new influencers or what? Can anyone ever be truly independent and 100% truthful?

      • Don Radoli says:

        A very provocative post, Heather. When I first read it, I thought it was an extreme act of self flagellation in sync with the Easter period.

        Now that you have had a chance to explain and reiterate at there is neither absolute truth nor absolute lie but rather a variation of perspectives, I wonder why the headline on the post isn’t tempered with at least a question mark? Are lies and secrets really the currency of PR?

        In one omf the episodes of “Yes minister” one of Sir Humphreys interlocutors, if I recall correctly it was Sir Arnold who put it succinctly when he said: ” … in certain situations one has to be economical with the truth…” or words to that effect.

        • Don – thanks for the comment. I often feel you need masochistic tendencies to work in PR, so maybe a bit of self-beating wouldn’t go amiss!

          I didn’t temper my title with a question mark, in part to be provocative, but also because I was making a statement. I do think that we trade (at least to some extent) in both lies and secrets.

          Beig “economical with the truth” is a phrase I remember hearing first in the Australian Spy Catcher case in the mid 1980s – and found this online from that case:
          Lawyer: What is the difference between a misleading impression and a lie?
          Armstrong: A lie is a straight untruth.
          Lawyer: What is a misleading impression – a sort of bent untruth?
          Armstrong: As one person said, it is perhaps being “economical with the truth”.

          Currency was also in my mind as last week we had the story (goes around every year or so) about fake pound coins. Apparently one in every three coins in circulation is a fake. Or perhaps we could say that it is a liar. Interestingly, if you pass on one of these coins, you are breaking the law – but everyone does it. Few of us are the mastermind counterfeiters (big liars) but we all contribute towards the ongoing circulation of the lies. There are fake coins in our currency as PR communicators. The impact can be to lead to a lack of faith/trust – but at what point does that happen? Does the news of the fake £1 coins make us all more cautious citizens? Not sure, but worth pondering as an ethical question…?

          • Trace Cohen says:

            I’m sorry but I am having a tough time with this, as it seems you are saying it is ok to lie because some people do it and they get away with it. The idea of being economical with the truth is fine, as I often like to call it, “the truth well told.” And there is nothing wrong with that as it is something EVERY company does. No company would lie about them self or talk about them self in a negative way.

            At the end of the day, PR professionals are still behind the scenes and seen as spinners because they are the middlemen and don’t have their name associated with anything. The talk of lies and secrets doesn’t help our profession, especially when it’s our own industry brethren talking about it. Almost every profession requires you to be masochistic if want to grow and get better.

            Maybe I’m a dreamer but I want PR professionals to be proud that they do PR and not followers who think it is ok to lie because everyone else is doing it. I see them writing their own news and relying less on the media – sure its their version of the truth but the truth always has many sides to it. At the end of the day, your consumer, your community and your followers will determine what truth they want to hear.

  2. Judy Gombita says:

    I’m of two minds about your “thesis,” Heather. On the one hand, I don’t believe I’ve ever deliberately lied in my career (especially to the media), but sometimes have been forced to try and push the narrative in a certain direction (usually because the CEO or board, etc., doesn’t want the unvarnished truth or strategic reasoning behind a decision “out there”). On a few occasions it’s been my strategic decision…but really not very often. As Trace indicates, this is an era of “social truths” (or perhaps “gotcha” big reveals would be more accurate).

    But where you do have my support is ripping the veil off the self-image of a lot of PR practitioners as being holier-than-thou….some even claim to be the ‘ethical conscience” of their organization (per an IABC survey a few years ago).

    Why on earth would someone believe that just because you work in the public relations field that you are inherently more ethical than the accountant or company lawyer, etc?

    • Trace Cohen says:

      Thank you for agreeing with me. I wanted to touch on your last paragraph though as I am unclear about your stance. Do you believe that PR professionals are or aren’t ethical and truth worthy?

      If the latter, then we have an issue as PR should be seen as ethical and trust worthy profession. Having met with many of them in past few months, it’s very interesting to see that PR professionals who are the closets to the product and even more knowledgable than the media that cover it, can’t write the story themselves. Do we really believe that some random person who was hired to just produce content for a publication is the most qualified to cover something that they inherently have no interest in? I think not.

      • Judy Gombita says:

        You’re welcome. I think we need to focus on the ethical component and training in university-level (or certification, etc) programs, as well as the cultural values and norms inherent in an organization (for example: do you believe the majority of most American financial institutions are inherently ethical?), as well as the individuals employed in the public relations role, rather than a self-satisfied, sweeping generalization about an (unregulated, unlicensed) industry.

        Ethics and honesty comes down to the individual. It comes down to the organization. It comes down to the leadership team/board of an organization. It isn’t something that magically happens because you have ‘vice president of PUBLIC RELATIONS” in your title.

        I’m actually referring to PR practitioners who, for the most part, are in-house and focus on reputation and issues management. I’m thinking that perhaps you are approaching this post from the perspective of an agency employee who does mostly marketing PR for consumer products? (Do I have that right, Trace?) I’m not sure that “product/service” knowledge and/or (in)effective writing are quite along the same lines as telling lies (or being totally honest) when it comes to the organizational narrative or issues management. But perhaps the author of the post, Heather Yaxley, understands your concern differently than me.

        (Great to have you reading and commenting on PR Conversations, btw.)

        • Trace Cohen says:

          Was it really that obvious that I did PR for startups? :) And my pleasure to comment on the website – I go were the thoughts are provoked!

          I would love to comment on the university level programs but I didn’t study PR formally, though I went to Syracuse were they have one of the top programs. My training took place on the job and I guess it was my boss/mentor that instilled his values into me – hopefully everyone is as lucky.

          My goal is to shine light on the PR industry who have been behind the veil for to long as the communicators for companies but never named. By doing so, this will eliminate any liars and spinners as you will be called out for doing it. It will also build up our professional as we will be recognized for the work we do and instill a sense of pride when you tell someone you do PR.

    • Agree with you Judy over the comfort blanket used by many in PR in claiming the position of ‘ethical guardian’ (Jacquie L’Etang wrote a great debunking paper on this some years ago – Ellie Lovell wrote a post about the concept during her Diploma studies: http://ellielovell.wordpress.com/2008/04/04/ethical-guardian-2/).

      I think also that you illustrate the challenge of truth vs lie – when does framing the narrative become a deliberate lie? Is it really okay to blame our bosses for this? Do people really care who originate the lie rather than who propagates it?

      I’ve written before about the need for a greater ethical debate in PR (http://greenbanana.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/follow-the-green-brick-road-for-an-ethical-pr-future/) and would like to see the establishment of a Centre for Ethical Enquiry, which many professions have. My argument is that this would draw together existing knowledge, undertake research, training and education, engage with various experts and indeed, critics of PR, investigate and guide on issues of debate and practice, co-ordinate the interest, commitment and plans of those who wish to reflect intelligence, integrity and intrepidus in their work and develop a credible leadership position globally for PR ethics.

      For me that’s a much more grown up stance for PR to take rather than either denying there’s any lying involved in PR or that it is not something we’ve ever done ourselves (ie its those OTHERS).

  3. Trace –

    I have never said it is ‘okay to lie’, what I’m saying is that everyone lies to some extent. That is, lying is not simply an absolute matter of communications that the PR world can say it doesn’t do at all.

    You say that being economical with the truth is fine (your ‘truth well told’) – but that’s you making a decision about where to be economical and using your narrative skills to dance neatly around an issue. Further, you note that every company does it – that’s part of my point. Everyone is bending the truth – telling shades of lies, carefully crafting communications to highlight their positive bits and place the negative aspects in the shade where the goal is for no-one to notice them. Still sounds like spin and not being totally honest to me. You may not think you are lying, but seems to me that you are.

    I’m confused – you are arguing that we need to be a noble profession and not thought of as liars. But then you say that we are managing issues behind the scenes to show our organisations in the best light.

    What is it that you don’t like about my post then? Is it because I’m advocating all this needs to be out in the open? Why should I pretend that PR people don’t trade in lies and secrets when they do – as everyone does as human beings? It is a BIG LIE to pretend that PR people have some higher ethical calling whereby they tell the truth – when you acknowledge that they are advising clients or doing their clients bidding to put forward a positive position.

    I agree with you that people hear their own truth – but that means they do need to question everything and realise that everything they read has the potential to contain lies (of whatever shade) and they need to be proactive in checking information not just accepting it. Likewise, this does put pressure on PR people to reveal their sources, make information more transparent and be trustworthy. But let’s not pretend that they won’t also sometimes be tweaking or hiding behind a few lies too.

    BTW, I am very proud of working in PR – I wouldn’t be so provocative about it through my writing, educational and consultancy work if I didn’t believe in the occupation as something worth championing. I believe the best way to make our industry better is to be honest – acknowledge that not everything PR people say can be relied upon as truthful and justify why this might be the case. As I’ve said before, ethical issues are complicated and we need to acknowledge that.

  4. Read something about the payola and the review blogger culture the other day. Quid pro quo; some PRs got the idea they could pay for favorable reviews with freebies and giveaways and even cash; some bloggers figured that was even more passive income to supplement their ad revenue. Blah blah everyone has to work, everyone’s liars blah. We’re no more or less ethical than anyone, agreeing with you all.

    IIRC your post not too long ago that talked about promotion; read another that aligned PR to advocacy. I think that’s why PRs are compared to lawyers more than any other professional: we tell stories, stories that are biased in support of an argument that is in our clients – and hopefully, key public’s – interests, all the while keeping their secrets. We decide what info is to be shared, what isn’t – and withholding ‘truth’ is often the same as a lie. We work hard to craft messages, struggle in this social world to feign some type of controls over them. We often deal with opinions, shaped by a particular set of ‘facts’ – which are subject to interpretation.

    Is it a lie for a CEO or politician to give a speech they didn’t write? Someone to publish a bylined article or blog post done by a PR or ghost writer? Sometimes it is.. but we let that slide; Casper needs work too and the CEO of XYZ Corp. needs to be running her company, not stressing about links and Tweets and long tails. Is it a lie for this brand or that to talk up their “fastest” this or “most popular” that? Sure, but I bet they have one report someway that statistically speaking, says they ain’t lying — all the while, the complaints on Twitter and FB tell a whole other story.

    Is it a lie for me to represent companies from whom I’ve never bought or hired? I don’t know first hand about their products or services, so how would I know right? I don’t think it makes me unethical – not if I do my homework, my due diligence, do my job as a professional. I do my best to be as honest, to tell the best story I can that honors the client’s objectives while respecting the audience. If I don’t have real news for a reporter, I don’t pitch it; if I don’t have a better answer for an employee, I admit – and keep working for one.

    “There is no secret, magical approach to public relations that miraculously will deliver results.” ITA and I can’t pretend to be anything more, do anything more; think that’s why I write about mistakes and the lessons they teach – I want to manage those expectations, won’t lie about what PR can and can’t do. FWIW.

  5. toni muzi falconi says:

    I really don’t know what to make of this conversation sofar.
    The post seemed reasonable but not particularly original, the comments have been either confermative or just banal lip service to the intolerable do-good interpretation of our profession.
    From a utilitaristic deontological perspective, not telling the whole truth does not amount to a lie.
    Even the fast moving Edelman, when advocating ‘radical transparency’ ,does not go as far as telling the whole truth and, in any case who knows the whole truth? Usually no single person nor organization. And then, what does one mean with the term the whole truth?

    Now then, the issue is: should one lie?
    As in everyday life, you sometime lie if convinced that the lie will alleviate the negative consequences of the truth when and if it comes out.
    In today’s world one presumes that the truth will eventually come out. I am not so sure this is so.
    Some years ago I remember we discussed here the practice of astro-turfing. Sooner or later, some said, the truth comes out and the consequences are very negative.
    B.S: I replied: out of presumably 100 astroturifng exercises not more that 3 or 4 are exposed. The other 96 are not, which of course does not mean they are all effective.

    Similarly the same goes for lies. So, for the arguments sake, let’s stick to professional practice.
    To be effective in pr practice the professional needs to consider and balance three levels of interest: individual, professional and organizational.
    It’s up to the professional to decide how to do this.
    If s/he believes that by lying s/he will never be found out, that is a risk that professional takes.
    If found out s/he is disgraced, loses her reputation and harms both the profession and the client organization.
    If the lie is benign it is often not worth the risk of being found out.
    If it is malign and is not found out the professional will have served the client.
    But what about the public interest…?????
    Oh! I forgot that Heather doesn’t accept the public interest as an indicator of effective pr ….
    cheers…

  6. Toni – thank you for your honesty in commenting on my lack of originality in the post, and appearing to insult all other commentators.

    I appreciate that you feel the discussion here is not original, but I don’t often see discussion of secrets and lies in PR to any depth. Normally there are accusations, heated responses, denials, calls for codes, distinction between the ‘professional’ and the others – end of discussion until the next time practitioners are accused again of lying.

    It seems to me that you (and others so far) accept PR practitioners effectively trade in secrets as they do not (cannot) be expected to reveal a ‘whole truth’ (which we all seem to agree is difficult in many cases to determine). Yet, accusations that this connects closely with professional lying hit the usual barriers. If I sum this up, there are things that we know, but we don’t openly share these – and that’s acceptable as it isn’t lying. If I’m on the other side of the communications, it seems the same to me – I’m having to make decisions on the basis of only some of the information. Whether you’ve withheld what might be pertinent information, massaged it, or twisted into more of an untruth (or even a lie), it probably has the same end result. But as you say, most lies and secrets are neither discovered nor the biggest issue in the world.

    Certainly in PR practice, there are many levels of responsibilities and decisions are made in relation to the individual, the organisation and society’s norms and expectations. I can only think of one case where a PR practitioner spoke out very publicly about an issue they felt uncomfortable about (a recall issue involving Renault a few years ago – and that person had already resigned to start a new business venture). It was accepted that this was a death sentence for any future career in PR – or probably ever being employed as whistleblowers often find. So anyone feeling their personal ethics are compromised by expectations relating to secrets/lies, would probably quietly resign and move on.

    Responsibilities to the ‘profession’ of PR are barely worthy of debate as for most people there are few sanctions that matter and as discussed above, the occupation is quite likely to be closed to you more if your bosses can’t trust you to lie/withhold secrets than if you’re caught out doing either.

    There is an inherent aspect of PR which advocates the trade in secrets/lies – I’m not saying I like it or that it is good for our reputation. But I wish people would discuss it seriously instead of knowing it is the truth and then denying it.

    So to the final point of the public interest – I’ve made my position (I believe) clear on that previously and my primary argument stands firm here. It isn’t that I don’t “accept the public interest as an indicator of effective PR”, but that I find that position practically impossible to support. I’m yet to be convinced that you can demonstrate to me what the single public interest may be (as opposed to the interests of different publics) and how (if we accept that this may be what is constituted by a legal/political system in society) this is balanced against the other responsibilities facing PR practitioners.

    And, that’s the real crux of my issue with ethical discussion in PR – it is not designed to help practitioners. We teach students about ethics, but not what they should do in reality when faced with say withholding secrets or telling lies (particularly if these could impact on others significantly). How do they balance all the obligations they feel – alongside a need to pay the bills and ensure they have a long career?

    If we seriously want to change the reputation of PR and not accept lies and secrets as core coins in our capital value to organisations (and society), then we can’t just say it doesn’t happen or that it is those who don’t belong to trade bodies (without any evidence to the contrary) – whilst those people snigger and keep on being employed. I’m most certainly not arguing for licensing, but do believe that unless we tackle these issues in the open, then secrets and lies will continue to be integral in our trade, everyone will know it, but we’ll keep on with the same circular conversations.

  7. Paul Seaman says:

    This is a useful and insightful post in the sense that it covers ground rarely explored by other PR pros in open forums.

    Max Clifford famously – some claim infamously – broadcasts that he occasionally lies on behalf of clients. The example he gives of is of how he once denied that a footballer was gay. The justification being that it was not Max’s job to end abruptly his client’s already short career by speaking the truth.

    BTW: I recently read “Born Liars – why we can’t live without deceit”, by Ian Leslie… I recommend it as a useful informative read on this troublesome issue. It starts with the fall of man: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” Eve.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Born-Liars-Cant-Without-Deceit/dp/184916424X

  8. toni muzi falconi says:

    My first point is an open apology to every commenter and reader of this conversation and the awareness of a temper outburst related to other matters.
    I always suggest to read at least twice before pushing the send, but then it also happens to me.
    I was told by experts that senile dementia should lower outbursts, but this time it didn’t work.
    Although in class last saturday I argued against this fad of apologies on everything and anything that some from our profession always suggest to the their clients, this time I truly apologise and am sorry.

    Heather,your response is convincing.
    Thank you for kindly taking the time to do it in a good mannered way.

    • Don Radoli says:

      Toni,

      I noticed at once that your opening paragraph was out of character. Now was this a freudian slip — that you were writing the truth of what you felt about the post and commenters.

      And if so where does that leave the apology. A diplomatic lie to assuage wounded egos of “banal commenters.?” Apology accepted from this commenter, who respects you as an elder statesman of the profession.

  9. Toni – I’m with you on the horrible trend towards public apologies (especially of the “sorry if you’re offended” type). But on this occasion, thank you for the heartfelt sentiment – and I certainly do understand the click before you think temptation. As an Italian, of course, you’ll appreciate the value of a glass of wine in both tempering this tendency, but also how a few more make it inevitable! Apology accepted and you’re always welcome to comment.

  10. Judy Gombita says:

    Wondering if Heather is being 100 per cent honest with us about her rationale for writing “provocative” posts such as PR being a mainly “promotional culture” and most PR practitioners being liers.

    :-)

  11. I advocated PR is a promotional industry involving promoting ideas (plus products and services) within a modern promotional culture. That I believe to be true. The world is increasingly reflective of a promotional culture from politics, to charities (your Pink Ribbon post for example), to historical events (is the Titanic sinking being remembered or promoted?) to sport and so on This culture is in no small way propagated by PR.

    Also I believe that PR practitioners are as likely as anyone else certainly to lie. And yes, I go further in saying that lies and secrets are inherent in what we do. I don’t believe you’ve never told a lie within your work life even if was harmless or noble. I wouldn’t describe most PR practioners as liars in the sense that everything we say is a lie, but if telling a lie makes someone a liar, that probably encompasses us all.

    My motive or rationale for these posts is because the topics interest me and I feel they are worthy of discussion. Spunky headlines help to promote the posts, but I am 100% honest about the points I raise.

  12. I may be an idealist but I consider truth in Pr pratice as worth pursuing, though I see it more as an aim to be reached than something already here. We have to keep the necessity for truth well in front us while at the same time being aware that it is still an ideal we are aiming to.

    Reality is a bit different , not only because – as Heather correctly pointed out – Pr practioners only have a partial perspective of truth – in the end everybody sees things from their own point of view, but also because the awareness for a true and trustful communication is still lacking in corporations. If anything could actually bring more truth and openness in how companies operate and consequently in how they comunicate, in my opinon this can only be CSR. The problem is, CSR is currently far from reaching its full potential in being practised by companies. So, if we Pr practioners expect our communications to be more truthful, our greatest efforts should go in this direction.

    Thank you Heather for proposing such an interesting subject. There is a lot of talking going on about ethics and ethic codes but you are probably the first to look into it from a realistic and honest point of view and to find the courage to expose things as they are, which is a prerequisite if we want to start modifying something.

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