Are we? We're trained, we're professional (well, most of the time), but we're not liars! We tell the truth - sometime's we just chose to use words that make the topic more glamorous.
In fact, the Public Relations Society of America developed a Member Code of Ethics that is designed as guidelines for PR practitioners to use as they carry out their ethical responsibilities. The Code covers professional values, principles of conduct and commitment and compliance. Here is a snapshot on honesty and accuracy.
- We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.
- DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION
- Be honest and accurate in all communications.
- Act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the practitioner is responsible.
As a publicist and/or spokesperson, you have an obligation to always be upfront and honest. If you are approached by the media on a subject matter that you cannot discuss at that time, it's ok to say so. The worst thing that you could do is dodge the media or say something that isn't true. You'll damage your reputation and credibility in a split second.
Also, if you are caught off guard by the media. Simply give them a time when you will be available for comments (be reasonable...they have a story that they are expected to deliver), gather your thoughts / create your key messages, and then do the interview.
Sometimes we are presented the awful task of having to tell a client that they blew the interview. That's what sparked discussion between Regis and Kelly referring to Regis's recent appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman last night. Apparently, Regis feared asking his vice president of publicity how he did on the show. When he did, the response that he got was, "You tried your best."
Regis Philbin then remarked that the only one who is ever protected is the publicist.
A good PR professional is ALWAYS in control and managing all messages very carefully. However, we have no control over how someone interprets a "story" or the comments made during a media interview. Therefore, we must always be well prepared when delivering a message on the record.
And, speaking of 'on the record'... I have some thoughts on that, too. Stayed tuned for those.