PR Through The Eyes Of A Young Professional

You’re Such A Liar! … Right?

In Public Relations, Social Media on January 22, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Like a million other professionals, I am a member of the LinkedIn community. Initially I joined as a prerequisite for a good grade in my graduate social media class. Nonetheless I’ve found it to be an extremely useful resource.  I’ve connected with at least 15 groups on the social networking site  that are specifically dedicated to the public relations industry. Every day I receive RSS feeds from each group full of current job listings, professional advice, pertinent industry news, new product launches, etc.  Recently I received an email from one of my groups with a topic on the discussion board called “PR and Lying”.

 Well PR 101 teaches us not to repeat any negatives, so from now on lying will be referred to as the “L-Word” …I don’t wish to actively participate in the negative branding of my profession. 

Moving on…

 Nevertheless, I knew this was going to be an interesting discussion.  We all know that unfortunately Public Relation Pros and Lawyers are perceived to be the biggest liars out of any other profession (I guess you could throw politicians and career criminals in the pot too.). And it is this school of thought that has burdened the field of PR that we as professionals have tried to so assiduously shake.

But back to the discussion board…

A member of the group, who shall remain nameless, posted a discussion that he and his company were conducting research and wanted “PR people to complete a survey for a report on ethics in public relations”. Simple enough right? Wrong!

While most professionals in the community were extremely receptive to the survey, others felt the survey was too black and white and left no room for explanations or variables.

 Too many “yes or no” questions make people nervous.

But nevertheless, the professionals of the group went to bat for their profession proclaiming, in a collective voice: PR professionals are not liars (I mean L-worder’s)! But don’t get me wrong the gloves did come off and mud was thrown… the biggest disagreement between the professionals was how do you define lying? And with many insisting that withholding information is different from lying entirely. Despite the conflict the need for this type of conversation is imperative to  the professions evolution.

No matter how hard we try, pr practitioners are still fighting their inner demons about lying.  But let’s see what we can all agree on:

1)     2+2= 4 (or at least last time I checked) – this can be classified as an absolute truth; nothing can change this.  2+2 will not equal 5 tomorrow. We can agree this is the truth

2)   No one likes a liar. People don’t say: “Hey that guy’s a great liar, he’s so awesome!!” The act of  lying is looked down on in every society. Liars are never (knowingly) revered.

But when the participants were asked “when is it justifiable to lie professionally?” , most agreed NEVER but some said:

When the lie will not damage your reputation, the clients business or breach the need to meet the public interest

If the lying is innocuous

Lie is a strong word and there is a big difference between withholding information and lying…(there’s more but I’m withholding it hahaha (in my villain voice))

???!!!

All depends on the specific situation at a given point

Harmless lies to avoid hurting someone People don’t necessarily want to know the truth when they ask “Do I look fat in this??”

To avoid war and/or death

When someone’s life could be in danger

As professionals we want to do better.  There is still so much to be discussed.  Therefore I implore you to start the discussion in your offices and boardrooms  about Half Truths and Whole Lies. Let the journey begin.

Check out the complete survey and results:

http://www.pwkpr.com/downloads/Graphs200110.pdf
http://www.pwkpr.com/downloads/FurtherComments200110.pdf

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