The PRSA Code of Ethics provides guidelines for how public relations practioners should behave in the industry. These main principles are often considered the backbone of any PR activity and should be apparent in every campaign, tactic and objective we create.
Sometimes this isn’t the case and PR practitioners are put in positions where their ethics are challenged. This also happens a lot in the show “Game of Thrones.” The characters, similar to PR practitioners, are challenged with ethical situations that push their honesty, loyalty, advocacy and expertise. This article will show how the PRSA Code of Ethics and “Game of Thrones” can relate, as well as how the show can be easily identifiable to the field of public relations.
“We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public,” via PRSA
Truth, philosophically, is two different things: it is the hard facts and it is the perception of those facts. Regardless, public relations professionals must be able to present the facts, no matter what the perception will be.
We have viewed this multiple times in the “Game of Thrones” series. We watch innocent characters die in an atmosphere of deceit and betrayal. Fortunately for us, we practice PR and not ER. Professional practitioners come up with crisis strategies to rebuild brands after dealing with bad news. Nobody will die at the dissemination of the truth. In fact, people could be harmed if we don’t tell the truth as in the Johnson & Johnson study, which most of us have read about in class.
Ser Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones recognized this value in telling the truth. He was loyal to Stannis Baratheon but was not afraid to tell Stannis if he was making a mistake and being brutally honest with him, especially when dealing with the dark actions of Melisandre, the Red Priestess. Were there any other missed opportunities where Davos could have been honest to save lives?
“We acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience. We advance the profession through continued professional development, research, and education. We build mutual understanding, credibility, and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences,” via PRSA.
Expertise is not just about being the most skilled public relations practitioner. It is about being the most open student. Even though we graduate, we must always be willing to learn more and challenge ourselves at every stage of the game. This means challenging ourselves to engage in diversity and acknowledge new perceptions; this means seeking opportunities to improve our skills by attending conferences, workshops and webinars as well as putting in hard work and dedication to keep growing. Researching PR companies, like Ogilvy PR (who will have a speaker at the PRSSA 2017 National Conference!) and their expectations is a great way to further your professional development and expertise before jumping in.
Littlefinger and Varys know how to play the Game of Thrones but have been slipping up and underestimating other characters. This new season will show why it is important never to be stagnant, whether it is in Westeros or the fast-paced world of public relations.
Arya knew this and would not settle until she achieved her goals of becoming a skilled assassin.
Once she met her goals, she raised the bar higher like we need to do in our public relations campaigns. I dare you to pick another character as determined as she.
“We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest,” via PRSA.
Public relations professionals must be loyal to their clients but should not compromise the integrity of the campaign nor themselves. Support your clients but do not follow them blindly.
Our title, “public relations,” even suggests that we build relationships or paths of communication with our public. We are not here to sell products, we are here to build connections and loyalties with consumers and brands.
In Game of Thrones, Brienne of Tarth exemplifies loyalty without compromising her personal integrity. To this day, she has upheld her vow to Catelyn Stark, previously to Renly Baratheon. She follows through with her promises but knows when to pick a fight. Brienne finally found Arya with the Hound but after fighting with them, she decided it was best for Arya to come home on her own terms.
Which other characters could compete with Brienne’s loyalty? Or which disloyal character do we see dying next?
Ashleigh Kathryn is the 2017-2018 Vice President of Professional Development. She is a senior public relations student at the University of South Florida. Follow her on Twitter at @Ashleigh_K_W.