Finding a Balance: Ethical Loyalty in Public Relations

istock_templatePublic relations practitioners tread the thinnest of lines when it comes to loyalty in the workplace. Respecting the interests of both your client and the public can prove quite a challenge. During my time in PRSSA, I have seen many relationships, both collegiate and professional, turn bitter due to a difference of opinion. Impartiality is difficult to maintain when working with both passionate clients and colleagues.

Here are some tips I have found useful when working in compromising situations:

  1. Do Your Research — Solid background data helps public relations practitioners analyze a client or project before making recommendations. Look back at previous campaigns and projects to get a feel for the company’s behavior, that way you can be optimally prepared for possible clashes of procedures or beliefs.
  2. Plan Ahead — Everyone’s beliefs are different, even within your own company. Before you even start a new project, set time aside to sit down with your team and client to go over the project, and make sure both parties understand the procedures as well as expected goals of the project.
  3. Stay Tuned In — Every campaign and project has some unexpected twists and turns along the way. I used closed (invite-only) or secret Facebook groups and cloud computing to ensure that I could share ideas and news with my team and/or client as soon as it happened.
  4. Use Common Sense — Simply put, if an argument becomes deadlocked or a situation becomes unstable, it may be best to just step away. In a profession where reputation is high priority, thinking in the long term is the only way to go. Your move might cost you your client but could end up saving your career in the long run.

Research, planning and alertness all help keep ethical disputes to a minimum. However, sometimes the relationship just may not work out. Remember that the loyalty of a public relations practitioner lies in the preservation of human integrity through the crafting of a mutual trust between the practitioner, client and consumer.

Have you ever had your personal and professional beliefs clash? If so, how did you resolve it?

Justin K. Joe is a senior majoring in mass communication and public relations at Texas State University and is a member of the school’s PRSSA Chapter, previously serving as both the Chapter secretary and vice president. He is currently researching the unique marketability of pop culture in South Korea for his honors thesis. Follow Justin on Twitter at @jkjoemusic.

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