Navigating the Ethical Landscape


posted by: Sachs Media


Navigating the Ethical Landscape

posted by: Sachs Media

A Conversation With Kelly Corder on PR Integrity

In the field of Public Relations, where the balance between transparency and strategy is delicate, ethics must be paramount if a firm is to maintain credibility. Kelly Corder, APR, CPRC, Sachs Media’s Director of Media Relations, shares invaluable insights on the foundational role of ethics in PR, especially in an era inundated with information and rapid technological advancements. From tackling ethical dilemmas to fostering transparency and integrity, Kelly’s perspective shines a light on the crucial path PR professionals must tread to uphold the public’s trust and serve the greater good. Join us as we dive into the complexities and commitments of ethical practice in PR with a leader who navigates these waters daily, ensuring that Sachs Media and its clients remain a beacon of excellence while maintaining trust in the industry.

Q: Can you define what ethics in PR means to you and why it’s crucial in today’s media landscape?
A: Ethics in our profession is foundational, embodying our unwavering commitment to truth, honesty, and transparency while promoting our clients’ causes and safeguarding their confidences. Every client deserves to have their story told, and our primary role is to inform the public by communicating factual information, which is essential for preventing the spread of misinformation, avoiding conflicts of interest, and ensuring that we don’t tarnish the reputation of others. Ethics in PR is far from black and white; if it were, our jobs would be much simpler. Instead, we’re tasked with navigating this complex landscape, always with the ultimate goal of serving the public’s best interest.

Q: Can you share an example of how you navigated an ethical dilemma in PR practices?
A: One example that comes to mind involves working with media in other countries, where the operational norms can be quite different from what we’re accustomed to. It’s not uncommon for media outlets overseas to offer money for interviews, a concept that I find fundamentally at odds with the principles of credibility and integrity. Accepting money for an interview, in my view, completely undermines credibility. That’s why we always decline such offers. It’s imperative that the audience can trust that any media engagement is conducted freely and without undue influence. This is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the communication and ensuring that it’s received by the public as intended – free from skepticism about the motivations behind it.

Q: In your opinion, what are the most common ethical challenges facing PR professionals today, and how can they be addressed?
A: The most common ethical challenges, in my opinion, revolve around the spread of misinformation and the advent of new technologies such as AI. These challenges need to be addressed at every level, from associations like PRSA and FPRA to agency leaders, and then down to the individual practitioner. Associations are beginning to address AI through developing policies and recommendations for members, and these will need to be updated frequently. Agency leadership must guide staff about the proper, ethical use of AI and be transparent with clients about when and how it’s being used. Misinformation is such a critical issue, and journalism and public relations – being two sides of the same coin – share the common goal of informing the public with factual, accurate information. We need to continue being guided by these principles and work together to ensure the accuracy of any information we disseminate. The public also plays a crucial role in continually seeking out reputable and factual news sources, a challenge made more difficult by the warp-speed spread of AI.

Q: How do you ensure that your team stays informed and updated on ethical standards in the rapidly evolving field of PR and media relations?
A: The PR practitioners on my team are members of the Florida Public Relations Association, and I think that’s a key part of staying up to date with ethical standards. FPRA and similar associations like the Public Relations Society of America provide opportunities to consult with other practitioners and attend regular workshops on the topic. We also share resources among the team, whether it be blogs, articles, or case studies on the subject. We really work hard to ensure that we stay current and maintain the highest ethical standards, for ourselves and for our clients.

Q: Can you discuss the role of transparency in building trust with both clients and the public, and how you maintain this in your work?
A: Transparency is critical. For example, we have to be thorough and conscientious about divulging potential conflicts of interest to our clients and completely honest about their objectives and the ideas they bring to the table. We truly are extensions of our client’s team, and that can only work effectively if we’re truthful and transparent with each other. It just isn’t possible to be successful without transparency. Two-way communication is the name of the game, with our clients and with the public.

Q: In the age of social media and instant communication, how do you assess and manage the ethical implications of real-time PR decisions?
A: It doesn’t matter how fast-paced the world gets, it will always be true that it’s more important to get it right than to be first – or to respond before you have all the facts about a situation. This is even more true today than in the past because with social media, incorrect or misleading content can be half-way around the world before you’re able to hit the “edit’ button in a belated attempt to fix it.

Q: How do you see the relationship between ethics and crisis management in PR, and can you explain how ethical considerations have shaped your crisis response strategies?
A: I think the midst of a crisis is when we’re most faced with ethical dilemmas. Who needs to know, what do they need to know, and when do they need to know it? There is no one-size-fits-all formula for dealing with a crisis. It really boils down to making sure you’re responding as quickly as possible with the most accurate facts available to you at the time. Being transparent, acting as a resource or providing the best resource, is what is most needed by the interested parties and publics.

Q: What advice would you give to young PR professionals about maintaining ethical integrity in their work?
A: Trust your gut. If something feels icky, it probably is. Beyond that, remember why we do the work: for the public good. Be transparent, but not at the expense of confidentiality. Use honesty and integrity as your guides, avoid conflicts of interest, deal fairly with all publics, and ensure accuracy and truth.

Q: Looking forward, what emerging trends or challenges do you see on the horizon for ethics in PR, and how are you preparing to meet them?
A: Of course, we’ll continue to monitor AI and other technologies that will impact our work and the work of our clients. As far as the bigger picture, I think it’s critical – no matter what ethical conversations we’re having – that we continue to stay up to date, attend workshops, read about best practices, consult with more senior colleagues, and get feedback from our colleagues after contending with an ethical dilemma or issue. Also, it’s absolutely critical that we mentor PR students who are about to enter the workforce, as well as junior practitioners, on these issues. We want to ensure that the profession is in the absolute best hands when we pass the baton, because of the tremendous influence PR professionals can have in education and with members of the public. If we don’t teach them to care about ethics, how can we expect them to conduct themselves ethically in the years to come?

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