Loyalty and fairness in the digital age
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) lists the noble but sometimes nebulous ideas of loyalty and fairness among their professional values in its Code of Ethics. Loyalty sounds (and is) great. But loyalty to what? And can or should loyalties be ranked? Broadening the issue, we see that brand loyalty has taken a hit in recent years, as the Information Age comes of age and generates more competition and price awareness. Fairness also has relative qualities as well, to be fair. The PRSA spells out loyalty as a quality to demonstrate both to clients represented by PR professionals and to the public interest. Only that the “public interest” may be more open to interpretation that loyalty…
Fairness is defined as treating various parties that PR teams come into contact with “fairly”, and respecting different opinions and freedom of expression. A free flow of truthful information is also valued. In terms of effectively and fairly advocating for clients today, publicists have to be smarter and on message with excellent networks of contacts to retain what’s left of their influence, as they find it increasingly necessary to become “content marketers” and more analytical.
The Code of Ethics references the need to have good relations with reporters (along with government officers and the public). These days, bloggers and posters are everywhere. Maintaining ethical, effective relations with such a growing pool of individuals coming from increasingly varied backgrounds and on an enormous scale presents new challenges. Indeed, by many measures today, most of us are members of the “media”, if we count posting on Facebook or Twitter. The nature of living up to the ethics espoused can become all the more challenging when considering how so much of the public is sharing their experiences with products and services. Just as the values that the PRSA are called on more, they can become more challenging to make sense of in terms of functionality, case by case and moment by moment, in an age where potential ethical dilemmas are constantly played out on social media platforms.
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