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Public Relations Ethics: Maintaining Trust and Integrity

PR ethics

Public relations is hugely important for a business as it helps you build your reputation, raise brand awareness, and paint your company in a positive light. Your engagement increases, and ultimately it can translate to more sales and profit.

An aspect of PR that I find is sometimes overlooked, however, is ethics. Ethics in public relations is also highly important as it relates to the perception of your business and whether you are operating morally. If your company is perceived to have poor ethical practices, it can severely hamper your PR and brand image.

Below, I take a look at ethical PR, the way your business can conduct itself, and simple ethical practices to consider.

Ethics in Public Relations - The Basics

We have all read news stories of companies that have their ethics questioned through poor business practices or unethical actions and it’s clear the damaging impact this can have. 

As a result, your business should strive to operate ethically and this is something a digital PR agency can help with. There are some basic things to remember whenever you perform a business action including:

  1. Consider the implications your business actions have on the public.
  2. Ask yourself what would happen if everyone did the same action.
  3. Remember that humans deserve dignity.
  4. Refrain from exploitation.

The simplest thing you can do is remember that every business action has a consequence. You must not only consider the financial implications of your actions, but also the ethical implications.

Could this social media post be portrayed in a negative light? Should I give my thoughts on this social topic? Questions like this are important to ask and you should always think about the ramifications your actions have and if they are ethical.

A simple thing I like to do too is to consider what would happen if everyone took the same action as me. If the results are negative then it’s most likely an unethical decision!


Simple Ethical Conduct Practices to Consider in Your PR

While questioning your actions is a great starting point, there are some key practices to follow or avoid to help your ethics in public relations.

Never inflate figures

You would be surprised how often figures are inflated in the world of business but this is something you should avoid. For example, some businesses may inflate their sales figures to downplay a poor quarterly performance.

While this can seem tempting, there is no real benefit as you are hiding the truth and avoiding the underlying problems that are causing the need to inflate figures initially. 

Also, if it is found out that your business is inflating figures, there could be legal consequences plus the inevitable huge hit to your reputation which will only snowball the situation.

Do not mislead the public

Similar to the above, you should never mislead the public. Every PR message, social media post, or article should be truthful and portray your business accurately.

A prime example of misleading the public is YouTube game adverts. There are so many low-quality adverts that give a false impression of games or use misleading tropes. As you can imagine, this only has the opposite effect of making sure that I never download or play that game!

The general public is intelligent and switched on and they can smell misleading information a mile away!

Stay away from questionable causes

It’s quite easy to get involved in online debates or give your thoughts on trending topics but this can be damaging and it can be unethical. Unless the morals behind a cause or issue are undeniable, it’s generally advised to stay away from public discussions and supporting causes.

There is too much potential for backlash in the world of cancel culture that we live in and unless you are incredibly knowledgeable about the subject, you don’t know if it is truly ethical.

Consider the wider implications of your actions

Businesses cannot look at their actions in a vacuum; especially in the online world. Even something as small as making a social media post on Instagram has wider implications and can set off a chain of events.

Therefore, ethical PR involves considering the wider implications of your actions. How could this PR campaign affect those outside the industry? Could it have a negative impact or be detrimental somewhere? 

By increasing your scope and avoiding tunnel vision, you can ensure your PR is ethical and that it doesn’t cause any harm or upset on a global scale.

Be sensitive to different groups and minorities

In today’s world, society is becoming more fractured as different groups arise and it is important to be sensitive to these different groups and minorities. A simple thing to avoid is obviously any form of racism, sexism, or PR behavior that could result in a minority group being offended.

This can be tricky, but if you use your common sense or make your PR material more neutral, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Strive for Ethical Public Relations for a Positive Brand Image

In a world where there is so much immoral and unethical business practice, it is wise to stay clear of this and only engage in ethical public relations. The code of ethics in public relations is simple to follow and you can benefit from an improved brand image, positive customer relations, but also the knowledge that you are making a positive impact in the world.

Article by:

Joshua George is the founder of ClickSlice, an SEO Agency based in London, UK.

He has eight years of experience as an SEO Consultant and was recently hired by the UK government for SEO training. Joshua also owns the best-selling SEO course on Udemy, and has taught SEO to over 100,000 students.

His work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, AgencyAnalytics, Wix and lots more other reputable publications.