Sweet PR leaves a sour taste for the whole industry after MailOnline furore

The furore around the MailOnline pulling a story after a case study was submitted by a PR agency boss under a false name should raise alarm bells.

Break the rules with creativity, not with the ethics of the industry, argues Emma Leech
Break the rules with creativity, not with the ethics of the industry, argues Emma Leech

It’s not that long ago that ‘Sweaty-gate’ was supposed to teach us all a lesson about the dangers of unethical PR practice.

That case saw an agency staffer posing as a member of the public to promote a product dealing with excessive sweat. 

Fast-forward to last week, and the co-owner of Bland PR, using a middle name as a surname, pitches a Sugar Free February challenge featuring her client’s sugar-free marshmallows to MailOnline.

So much for truth, transparency, trust and the importance of reputation.

The reality is that every time PR practitioners lie, they bring the industry into disrepute.

So what? some will say. How about self-respect? How about substantiating our claim that PR is a strategic management function?

How about being confident that the time and effort we’ve put into building professional credibility isn’t undermined by rogue practitioners?

It’s time we called out the bullshit and bad practice and stopped accepting that it’s just something people do and have always done.

Emma Leech, president of the CIPR 

It’s time we called out the bullshit and bad practice and stopped accepting that it’s just something people do and have always done.

Times are changing and we need to change, too – and regulate our industry together.

Bland’s website describes the company as being on a mission to break the PR rules. Personally, I’m first in line to applaud anyone breaking the rules with their creativity, innovation, energy and insight.

But I don’t believe we should be playing fast and loose with the ethics that underpin our profession. That’s bad business, however you look at it.

Trust is the bedrock of our work. We build relationships with journalists, stakeholders and businesses that fundamentally rely on trust.

Advocacy is a crucial part of our work but we must be transparent and avoid conflicts of interest, particularly in dealing fairly with the public. There’s enough fake news out there without PR practitioners adding to the noise.

Creating a false identity and failing to declare an interest are just tips of the iceberg.

Turn a blind eye to their use in day-to-day practice and guess what? Behaviour gets worse and we all lose out as a result.

As an industry we can take a stand on this. Call it out, don’t simply shut it out.

Emma Leech is president of the CIPR

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in