I have had quite a bit of time to think in the past few days. Partly this is because I have spent a number of hours on train journeys and partly because I have been on holiday and a little distanced from the day-to-day demands of the office. On my mind has been the thorny issue of reputation.
Reputation is a word that is synonymous with the PR industry and for me that is often not a positive relationship. We are seen to be the people who protect, safeguard and where possible enhance reputation of brands and organisations. This can sometimes be seen to be at the expense of truth, honesty and with a lack of integrity.
All this has led to a mistrust and cynicism about the PR business and what it does. The reputation of the very profession that I have proud to be part of is often called into question and that makes me very uncomfortable. After all as a Fellow of both the PRCA and the CIPR I have a daily focus on professionalism, integrity, ethics and the codes that exist. To add to my considerations in this area I am also subject to the College of Policing Code of Ethics. So it is safe to say that ethics, ethical considerations and professional standards are at the very forefront of my thoughts.
The concern I have is that I am not sure how many other people working in PR and communication have the same approach. How many people will question what they are doing when they sit down in the office and turn the computer on? How many will discuss the ethical considerations of a course of action that a client may be proposing? How many will provide honest feedback to those in senior positions?
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that I have everything sewn up. But I do feel able to appropriately question when I am uncomfortable or concerned about something I am being asked to do. It may be something that comes with age and experience but it is also something that is a key to my belief system and my own ethical standards. After all why would I want to work somewhere that puts my professional ethics under pressure.
I have been very supportive of the work of both the CIPR and the PRCA in this area but we can and should do more. Communication is the one function other than management that sees across the organisation and decision making in some detail. It gives us the perfect position to be the conscience of the business and to ask challenging questions.
If we can take this position then we can start to go someway to changing the view of PR and communication and moving beyond reputation management.