We CAN Handle the Truth

My entrée into the field of public relations wasn’t as planned as I’d like to say it was. After finishing an undergraduate degree in marketing and management, I took a well-paying, albeit very unfulfilling, job in property management under the guise of “Marketing Representative.” I’d always had an immense interest in marketing, advertising and what went into making purchase decisions, consciously and subconsciously. After close to a year, I made the decision to leave that position and started a graduate program in the journalism school at my alma mater. Quickly I learned how interwoven marketing, advertising and public relations are and all these components together, and many more, are what resonate with consumers and are why we choose one product or service over another. Well-told, truthful advertising and brand stories, and how we innately feel about those brands, are what drive us to purchase and act. I learned that in the industry of public relations a compelling story was newsworthy only if it was a truthful compelling story and any claim that was made had to be verified.

I think it’s safe to say that being truthful is paramount to most everything in most any profession, and although some exclusions apply – the professions of journalism, public relations and public affairs are not one of them. This is why I was very proud to see a professional organization that I’ve been a member of for the better part of a decade make a public statement earlier this week regarding one of the core tenets of our industry.

The Public Relations Society of America issued the following on “Alternative Facts”:

Truth is the foundation of all effective communications. By being truthful, we build and maintain trust with the media and our customers, clients and employees. As professional communicators, we take very seriously our responsibility to communicate with honesty and accuracy. The Public Relations Society of America, the nation's largest communications association, sets the standard of ethical behavior for our 22,000 members through our Code of Ethics. Encouraging and perpetuating the use of alternative facts by a high-profile spokesperson reflects poorly on all communications professionals. PRSA strongly objects to any effort to deliberately misrepresent information. Honest, ethical professionals never spin, mislead or alter facts. We applaud our colleagues and professional journalists who work hard to find and report the truth. - Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA, Chair of the Society for 2017

I don’t recall the word facts ever needing an adjective preceding it as this seems superfluous, but after the past several days I’ve amended my thought process. It is imperative, now more than ever, that journalists and those in highly visible positions of power use discretion and care with the words they choose. I’m cautiously optimistic that truth will prevail in journalism and beyond, and believe that holding communicators (in any form and forum) accountable is a vital step in preserving the credibility and lifespan of my industry.

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