June 2, 2008
From the PRSA Media Room. The following letter was submitted yesterday in response to a commentary on "CBS Sunday Morning" by legal analyst Andrew Cohen in which he challenged the integrity of the public relations profession.
Dear Mr. Cohen,
Regarding your commentary on today’s "CBS Sunday Morning," the Board of Directors of the Public Relations Society of America finds it imperative to affirm the professionalism of public relations practitioners and to take exception with what we regard as a misguided opinion. The PRSA Member Code of Ethics, to which all members pledge, embodies a strict set of guidelines defining ethical and professional practice in public relations. Professionals who meet the Code’s standards stand in stark contrast to the simplistic, erroneous characterization of the profession you presented.
Contrary to baseless assertions, truth and accuracy are the bread and butter of the public relations profession. In a business where success hinges on critical relationships built over many years with clients, journalists and a Web 2.0-empowered public, one’s credibility is the singular badge of viability. All professionals, including attorneys, accountants and physicians, aspire to ethical standards, and public relations professionals are no different, always striving for the ideal.
For public relations professionals, engaging diverse and often skeptical audiences requires top-flight skills in communications, creativity and even persuasion, but a trust once lost cannot be regained. Unemployment, contrary to your opinion, is reserved for the professional who has lost his or her credibility.
Building upon a foundation of integrity, implementation of those professional skills can also yield some very positive and powerful outcomes. Spreading the word about available health services has gotten thousands of infants immunized. Uncovering facts about post-9/11 air quality has helped scores of New York children unravel the mystery of a high incidence of asthma. Creating programs that engage veterans has helped them make the personal and professional transition to civilian life.
Curiously, you also assert that lying is no big deal. To the public relations professional, that is far from the truth. To “try to convince people a turkey is really an eagle” would leave true professionals eating crow, if they could eat at all.
Very truly yours,
Jeffrey Julin, APR
Chair and CEO, PRSA