Aug 7 2011

Dogbert’s PR Ethics

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Posted my 400th Tweet this morning. Dogbert’s “PR Ethics” highlight negative perceptions about our craft.“>

I moderated two APR Readiness Review panels a few weeks ago and neither candidate had given the PRSA Code Ethics serious consideration (yet).  I believe we can all benefit from further reflection on the ethical choices we make daily on the job.

Mar 9 2011

“Your Fired”

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The following post appeared in the Capitol Communicator, March 8.

Donald Trump’s foray into reality TV has made “you’re fired” an engaging melodrama. But in real life, that’s a very challenging pronouncement.

The recent firing of Kurt Bardella, deputy communications director for the House Committee on Government Oversight, is instructive to all public relations professionals.  From the most junior practitioner to the most experienced executive, we are reminded that we can only be successful if we are credible.

And what is credibility?  At its core, credibility is trustworthiness.  Are you a believable source?  Are you timely and responsive?  Are you honest – when sharing facts and insight – and do you have approval to do so?

For Mr. Bardella, his reputation took a significant hit after Politico reported that he might have inappropriately shared correspondence with a New York Times reporter for a book project – perhaps BCC’ing the NYT contact on emails with other reporters. We will never know specifically the nature of the information, but the Congressional office investigated and concluded his conduct was inappropriate. It was also unprofessional and unethical.

Once Bardella was dismissed from his position, his reputation was permanently damaged.  While I expect that he will, in time, recover from this personal crisis, it will forever be part of his professional history – and Google search results.

Please note, that I do not wish Bardella ill will.  I believe that he will able to demonstrate to future employers that he has learned from his mistakes, which will make him a better practitioner.

What can we learn?  Here’s a refresher on establishing and maintaining credibility.

1)    Honesty is the most important principle of our practice.  Provide information that has been approved for dissemination.  If you can’t disclose facts, say so. Provide a timeline, if you can, for when such information can be made available.

2)    Relationship building isn’t a quid pro quo.  Providing confidential information or sharing information without the owner’s knowledge to curry favor with a journalist isn’t a constructive way to establish a relationship with a journalist. Take time to learn what the journalist needs and be responsive when she calls.

3)    Trustworthiness is essential to provide counsel to senior leadership.  Once you lose the trust and confidence of an executive, you will have a difficult time doing your job effectively.

4)    Follow the PRSA Code of Ethics, which includes among its values the protection of the free flow of information and privacy.

Credibility is an essential part of professional development and advancement. With it, you are a trusted advisor and source. Without it, you risk the pronouncement – “you’re fired.”

Jul 30 2010

The Future of News

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For all the debate about the future of news, it seems to me that we are already living the future. Over the past decade, barrels of ink were spilled on how the Internet would change information consumption.  Today, mobile phones are ubiquitous – 20% of homes in the U.S. do not have a landline and the typical user has the mobile phone on 19 hours per day.

The Kindle and iPad have made digital publications tangible and, in many cases, a more enjoyable experience than holding a newspaper.

Five years ago, social media was a fad for college kids. Today, there are more than 290 social networking and media channels.

A study by the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism concludes that decline of newspapers continues at a rapid pace while trust in the Internet begins to erode. Yet, Wikileaks relied on the mainstream media to validate (or rather interpret, source and report) the more than 90,000 military documents about the war in Afghanistan.

I believe that there will always be a place and a critical need, especially in a democracy, for an informed public and professional journalists.  However, I’m not convinced there’s a need for the daily newspaper in printed format.  Local and news weeklies and special interest magazines serve a more specific purpose – news and analysis that you can take with you and read when you want.

Daily news demands immediate consumption.  The Internet, radio and TV provide more effective delivery channels. After reading the Wall Street Journal on the iPad, I canceled my print subscription.  I wish the Washington Post would create a more compelling app so I can cancel that print subscription as well.

In all this hand-wringing about the fate of journalism, what does it mean for the PR professional?

No profession remains constant in its practice. PR and journalism are in the relationship business. Thus the basics of our craft still apply. As technology continues to alter how we engage in building and maintaining those relationships, its important to remember that honesty and integrity matter. The only thing that follows you is your reputation so make sure you are managing it effectively both in your offline and online interactions with reporters.

May 25 2010

Curry Apology

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Commencement speakers want to offer helpful, memorable advice to the graduates.

For NBC journo Ann Curry, her commencement address illustrated instead the importance of research and knowing your audience. On Saturday, she named the wrong alumni in her speech to Wheaton College of Massachusetts graduates.

My guess is that speech writer and/or research assistant failed in the basic duty of “double sourcing” the facts — though Curry accepted sole responsibility for the failure. Classy and responsible but a significant failure for someone in the business of accuracy.  Also, the college’s PR staff should have done a better job sharing key facts about graduates, alumni and the institution with Curry and her staff.

In her apology, Curry succeed in admitting her mistake and complimenting the Wheaton community.  If you have to experience a public humiliation, this is a graceful way to respond.

May 20 2010

ComPRehension Guest

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I recently wrote about earning my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential for the Public Relations Society’s ComPRehension blog. As Mid-Atlantic District Chair, I continue to remain active in PRSA and will be supporting the APR Boot Camp process to be held during the International Conference in Washington, DC, in October.