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5 Tips For Running an Ethically Sound PR Campaign

Any first-rate publicist can carefully craft and execute a proper PR campaign that will both generate a substantial amount of press exposure, and also help to portray his or her client in a positive light. But, not all publicists will do this without taking a few shortcuts on the way. Sometimes shortcuts can be beneficial – a way to speed up a process that would normally take a longer amount of time. Other times, not so much.

However, just as with any situation in life, ethics are always an important, yet often sidelined topic. Sometimes this is due to a simple oversight. While other times it’s done on purpose, so that one can engage in unethical behavior in order to take a shortcut.

Here are five tips I have prepared on ways that one can run a smooth, successful, and most importantly, ethical PR campaign.

  • Always Be Honest – There’s an old Russian proverb that goes: “With lies you may get ahead in the world – but you can never go back.” And that’s just as true when you’re sharing a story with the public. If you present even just one lie in a story, it may possibly help you in the short-term, but there is always a strong chance it can come back to bite you. Not only can you ruin your own credibility as a publicist, and make it hard or even impossible for a media outlet to ever take you seriously again, but also if you’re a notable personality or brand, the negative consequences can be tremendous, as your reputation is always on a pedestal for the public to judge. Although a crisis can always be a possibility when you’re in the limelight, one never wants to help make it an actuality.
  • No Pay-For-Play – While it has been reported that certain countries, such as China, for instance, only accept press releases and stories if space within a publication is purchased, the idea of public relations is that it is “earned media.” In other words, stories are important enough that they are worthy of a publication’s real estate, not bought. Paying for placement not only delegitimizes an important story, but it is also antithetical to the whole idea of a media outlet offering a third-party endorsement, one of the primary goals of public relations.
  • Don’t Misrepresent Facts – Similar to not lying is not distorting facts to suit one’s needs. Think about it. If you’re a large corporation, should you tell your shareholders your company’s stocks are only worth $5 per share, when they’re really worth $50? Should a doctor tell his or her patient with cancer that most people with their type of cancer live for two years, when in reality they live for only three months? If you twist the facts, you run a major risk in not only destroying your own and the media outlet’s credibility, but you also deceive the public by providing them with incorrect information.
  • Don’t Throw Competition Under the Bus – It’s never a smart idea to slander your competitors, especially in the public arena. It’s one thing to present a valid reason to make a distinction for the sake of comparison, but it’s an entirely different thing to pull your competitor into a bullfight and wave a red cape in front of them.  For one, you open yourself up to their revengeful efforts at any time. But more importantly, whenever one protests too much about someone else, it never looks good for his or her own character. Just as Queen Gertrude stated in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
  • Don’t Offer Bribes for Coverage – Taking a reporter or producer out to lunch is one thing. Offering them a trip to Cabo San Lucas is another. Although you may really want that Wall Street Journal real estate reporter to cover the launch event for your client’s new residential project, it’s a bad idea. For one, it makes you and your client look desperate, having a story not worthy of print exposure. It also does a disservice to all parties. Moreover, how would you like for the reporter to get fired for accepting your bribe and then hold it against you when they move on to another position at a different newspaper? Next time, think about sending them a box of chocolates or a Starbucks gift card after they cover your story, instead.

For more information on Steven Le Vine and grapevine pr, visit www.theprgrapevine.com. You can contact him directly at Steven.levine@theprgrapevine.com.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Anonymous

    And just to make it consistent, let’s extend the no pay-for-play approach to no time spend on proposals for clients without being paid for our efforts and intellecual property.

    That sounds ethical to me!

    February 4, 2011 at 6:26 am
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