Yesterday’s panel-filled schedule at the PRSSA Regional Conference yielded more PR advice in a single day than most students obtain in a semester. There were more than two dozen public relations professionals filling classrooms with guidance, tips, lessons and observations, and every student there filled notebooks and Twitter and i-Pads with pearls of wisdom grabbed at the event. For me, a repeated message–uttered by many a speaker–stood out and was crystallized by the keynote, PR guru Fraser Seitel. It was the same message your mother always told you: “Don’t lie.”
Public relations as a profession still suffers somewhat by the perception that we “spin” facts to garner a positive response from our targeted audiences, and that our messages should be viewed through a cynical screen. But too many corporate images and public careers have suffered at the hands of a lie. Energy company BP is recent proof. Tiger Woods is a great example of a superstar whose lies virtually ruined his career. Bill Clinton came within a vote of losing his presidency over a lie.“Don’t succumb to spinning,” Seitel told the group of 80 public relations majors attending the Hofstra-hosted event. “Lying is not acceptable. Everything must be built around telling the truth. There’s a great difference between doing well and doing right.”
Later in the day, during what was the most well-attended panel discussion, PR pros Bob Zimmerman and Bert Cunningham were asked why so many organizations and leaders–knowing the examples of its consequences–lie to cover up problems, thus leading to PR debacles. “People are human,” Cunningham wryly noted, “and they think they can lie their way out of a bad situation.” Zimmerman agreed that there’s often an “I can handle this” mentality that comes along with being a leader. And this is where a PR pro should be steering their bosses to the truth. “If you’re doing your job right, sometimes you’re the only one in the room shaking your head no,” Seitel told the PR students.
Mom was right. Lying is bad. And the best PR professionals know this, live this, and act accordingly. Your thoughts?
P.S. At the left of this blog I’ve added links for PR jobs and internships I’ve heard about. Take a look and bookmark this resource. It’ll be updated regularly!