Maintaining ethical principles in the pursuit of business goals – A Public Relations Perspective
The relationship between you and your client has to be one of mutual trust. It is very important, as an independent contractor, to be confidential. This is particularly crucial for public relations practitioners, whether they are internal or external to a company, and especially these days, when mergers and acquisitions happen around us on a daily basis and we are required to communicate what is happening in an organization to both internal and external audiences. Practitioners have to emotionally distance themselves in situations like this. One’s primary responsibilities are to be culturally sensitive, to keep the lines of communication open within the organization, not to provide negative or positive commentary, and to report situations in a manner that is truthful and non-detrimental to stakeholders. You also have to keep the company honest and make it better by counselling management with regard to the need for stakeholder approval.
In communicating and wanting to correctly represent an employer or client, it is important not to misrepresent a situation, or to make it seem more than it is. Contrary to popular belief, public relations is not about glossing over the truth, but about counselling companies to be socially and environmentally wholesome. It is about managing reputations, not about putting gloss over ugly. In Barbados, our companies are not held accountable on a serious level for their environmental impact. As such, companies like the Green Globe hotels have to be commended for their initiatives, which save incredible amounts of water and electricity and reduce their impact and environmental footprint.
Other ethical initiatives are also important, such as social outreach programs that sponsor sports teams in our areas. Companies have a duty to give back to the communities in which they operate. Stakeholders, be they investors, employees, customers or neighbours, interact with a company negatively or positive depending on whether it is a good corporate citizen. The public relations practitioner’s role is to act as a confidential advisor who ensures that companies do not misrepresent themselves, while at the same time operating in a manner that is environmentally sound and sensitive, as well as socially and culturally responsive.