Public Relations – A Question Of Ethics

Credit where credit is due – good feature in last week’s PR Week (probably still on sale at a newsstand near you, this week’s cover price £53.47) on the subject of Professional Ethics: Should You Promote These Products?

And it was a good piece – not only did it address the issue of whether who you work for and what you stand for are, possibly, different things – it also rounded up some decent spokespeople. I’m not saying it wasn’t flawed – have a quick shufti here – but it was thought-provoking and it did address one of the big industry issues.

It was particularly resonant for me because it’s an issue that I had a quick go at, some time ago, here on this very blog. If you fancy it, you can have a quick scan here.

In brief, I said that I didn’t care very much – I’m a smoker, I drink, I’ve been known to eat chips and fatty foods and, as someone has to defend the reputation of the arms industry, then it might as well be me.

I should qualify it, however, and in the light of the PR Week article, by saying that while I (obviously) have the life principles and overall standards of a weasel, I would not consider, on behalf of any client, running a communications strategy that was illegal, unethical or harmful. I think this is where the confusion lies – just because a company’s products may have the potential to be harmful (alcohol, tobacco, guns), doesn’t mean that the comms strategy has, or needs, to be.

(And yes, within my own moral code, lying on behalf of my employer is allowed – where the greater good of that employer and its stakeholders would be compromised by my not so doing. Which is a very rare occurrence.)

So was there anything that I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole? Well, yes. And this is why the PR Week article struck a chord. Very topical.

It was the thing that (I think) the PR Week article missed out. Forget guns, booze, fags, porn and fried food. It’s much worse than that. It’s something on which – I think – we can all agree.

It’s Nick Griffin and the horrible wingnuts over at the BNP.

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