PRSA had an op-ed published
March 31, 2011, in CommPro.biz
. Authored by Tom Eppes, APR, Fellow PRSA
, chair of PRSA's Board of Ethics and Professional Standards,
the opinion piece
examines whether it is ethical for public relations firms to represent dictators.
That’s the essence of an issue boiling over
in the London media
and among certain NGOs who are concerned that PR firms are, in their view, whitewashing the bad behavior of bad people. Gideon Spanier of the The London Evening Standard writes
, “Critics claim that London has turned into the global capital of reputation laundering.” Spanier also quotes Lord Bell, chairman of Chime Communications
, as saying, “No amount of media harassment or sensationalism is going to stop me representing clients that have a legitimate right to tell their story.”
The controversy offers an opportunity for public-relations practitioners to do some soul searching about the clients or employers they choose to represent. Is anyone off limits
? Does everyone have the right to representation
in the court of public opinion, just as the accused have a right to legal representation in a court of law?
There are several sections of the PRSA Code of Ethics
that address this. My read is that it would be difficult — but possible — for a PR professional to be an ethical practitioner while representing dictators or authoritarian regimes.
Read the rest of the op-ed here.