Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Are Good Publicists Ever Ethical?

Most people who are considered to be good people do not always act ethically. The real question is this: To what degree and how frequently do they act unethically?

So if being an ethical human being challenges many educated, well-intentioned, conscience-driven individuals who should know right from wrong, what should we expect from the paid practitioners of a profession that seeks to serve its clients before the interests of society? Perhaps that is the problem with our country and the world – we have different standards in place that contradict and conflict with each other all the time.

No one has a constitutional right to PR representation but publicists do operate under the laws of the land and the tenets of their profession and of the industries they represent. Can someone promoting the NRA, the government, or a Fortune 500 company be guilty of being unethical from the get go, just by the mere fact they have agreed to cover up the secrets they learn, to commit to putting a spin on messages they know to be false or at the very least against the interests of society, and to publicly support the words and ideas of a client whom you’d rather reverse if you met them outside of a working relationship?

The better you are at being a public, the worst you are at being an ethical person. The more you advocate for the interests of one, no matter  if it is a non-profit promoting children’s safety, the more you move towards creating a world that is void of the things you don’t advocate for. To be an ethical publicist could mean you are an unethical human being. To be an unethical publicist may actually mean you are an ethical person. How so, you wonder?

An ethical publicist puts his client’s needs above others. An ethical publicist may not lie but is under no obligation to reveal truths he knows of. The ethical publicist represents his or her client to best of his ability, using all available tools and resources to promote the client – but what if competitors of that client are better and more deserving of PR? You won’t, as the publicist, admit that your client is second-best or even third-rate.

Take an unethical publicist, in certain situations, could be an ethical person. If you, as a publicist, know your client sucks and is a loser you can continue to promote him, you can violate a code of professional ethics for the greater good, and help expose your client for what he really is. You could leak things to the media that are against your client’s interests. You could speak out against them. You could contact this competitor and quietly help them. All of this makes you can unethical publicist but perhaps a more ethical person.

Are good publicists ethical? Can good people be good publicists? As someone in the PR industry since 1989 I can this: The world is far from perfect and humans are flawed. We do the best we can to act ethically as often as possible but I have no doubt that all publicists have and will act, in some degree, unethically. And in some cases, that may even serve society well.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©

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