Monday, June 2, 2008

A Hard Look in the Mirror.

Andrew Cohen of CBS News took a shot at PR professionals as liars. Many in the profession took incredible offense at the comment. Were they wrong to be offended? I say no, but conditionally. When I tell people at a party what I do, they crack a joke about me being a flack, putting "lipstick on a pig", etc. Any attempt at further explanation and they just get bored. The general public has opinions about lawyers, politicians, and yes...PR people.
That said, Cohen was fundamentally wrong about PR pros as paid liars. It reminded me of a story...
Early in my career, a colleague told me a story of being asked by his boss to lie on behalf of the organization. He took a long look in the mirror and decided no career was worth compromising himself. He did not lie. The person that asked him to lie was later arrested and he remained with the organization. Trust me, dear reader, this is not the only example like this.
I venture that all professionals are faced with some type of ethical dilemma within the scope of their career, whether it be cooking the books, lying, etc. The true measure of a professional is how they react. PR people are not able to simply ignore ethics as part of their job description. The issue is human, not job specific. So Cohen(a member of a traditionally picked-on profession) took a shot at PR, we can withstand it, BUT better - let's do our best to educate our co-workers, friends and clients of our true purpose.

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