THINKPIECE - Full disclosure by corporations can serve the dual purpose of good PR and good business

One of the challenges we in public affairs and PR face is that new technologies have enabled us to reach so many more people with our messages in an increasingly wider variety of media. But in the process of ’making news’ or developing grassroots support, some people try too hard to create the impression of public interest. And they’re not always forthright about their intentions.

One of the challenges we in public affairs and PR face is that new technologies have enabled us to reach so many more people with our messages in an increasingly wider variety of media. But in the process of ’making news’ or developing grassroots support, some people try too hard to create the impression of public interest. And they’re not always forthright about their intentions.

One of the challenges we in public affairs and PR face is that new

technologies have enabled us to reach so many more people with our

messages in an increasingly wider variety of media. But in the process

of ’making news’ or developing grassroots support, some people try too

hard to create the impression of public interest. And they’re not always

forthright about their intentions.



I know this can be shaky ground - PR deals with information and

images.



Public affairs deals with information and issues. Where and how do you

cross the line into manipulation?



Not so long ago, I received a promotional newsletter from a PR firm

touting its ability to obtain major media coverage in support of public

policy issues. There was a photo of one of the firm’s principals

appearing on a talk show as a representative for a coalition formed to

support a health/safety issue. On the same page was another picture of

the same person appearing on the same show as a sportsman offering tips

on the environment.



What was wrong with these pictures? First, viewers of the talk show did

not know that this gentleman was a paid spokesman and that the

sponsoring association had an economic interest in the resolution of the

issue.



Second, viewers did not know that he was a paid PR man first and a

sportsman second.



Think of the possible damage that could have resulted if this

information had come out at a later date - perhaps on another story on

the same show.



Why should any practitioner make his or her client fear disclosure? Very

little - if anything - is to be gained by a company hiding its

involvement in a public issue.



Embracing openness gives a company something to stand behind in its

dealing with the media, government officials and its communities. When a

company talks about issues publicly, it shows that it is for something,

not against everything.



More companies are recognizing disclosure not merely as an effective

communications tactic but as sound business practice as well. Some

examples: holding editorial board meetings with the press and using

corporate web sites to explain important issues.



And finally, in hiring PR consultants, these companies are establishing

performance goals related not merely to the amount of media exposure or

the passage of legislation, but to reputation management. Due to new

information techniques, public expectations are high for companies to

become more transparent. In this environment, no company wants to be

seen as the corporation that operates in the shadows.



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