World PR Day 2022: Rebuilding the PR Profession on the Foundations of Trust, Truth, and Transparency

By Paul Agada

It is rather ironic that Public Relations, a profession that specializes in reputation management, suffers a reputational crisis. The profession has come a long way from its early days of press agentry, as practiced by founding fathers such as Edward Bernays, where publicity was achieved through sensationalism, hyperbole and propaganda.

Over the years, regulatory and industry bodies were established in various countries to sanitize the practice of Public Relations and provide guidelines for professionals. However, despite these efforts, businesses, corporate organizations, politicians, journalists and laymen have continued to hold flawed opinions about Public Relations.

The dignified profession has been reduced to a machinery for propaganda, image and laundering among others. It is common to find stakeholders who consider Public Relations as a luxury rather than necessity, despite calls from professionals to consider it a management function.

Deciding the role and value of Public Relations to a business, corporate organization or government tends to generate a lot of controversy.

Truth be told, the flawed notion of the profession was enabled and sustained by unscrupulous practitioners of the profession who have consistently executed campaigns that flouted ethical guidelines.

The institution of the World Public Relations Day in 2021, which is celebrated annually on July 16th, provides a golden opportunity for practitioners across the globe to assess these challenges and hold conversations on the profession. There is no gainsaying that this move will play a great role in shaping narratives on the profession and debunking flawed perceptions.

The year’s World PR Day is themed ‘Trust, Truth and Transparency’. It begs the question, how can Public Relations practitioners embody Trust, Truth and Transparency in their operations?

To build trust, practitioners and agencies must be deliberate about excellent service delivery. While dealing with clients, they must endeavour to deliver value throughout their period of engagement. To achieve this, they must document the clients’ expectations, outline their deliverables and be clear on the monetary value required.

Truth is a cardinal principle of Public Relations. Public Relations is the deliberate process of managing an individual or brand’s truth to achieve goodwill with its target publics.

Public Relations practitioners must consider themselves as surety of public trust and they must endeavour to convey truthful information regardless of the circumstances. Truth is sacrosanct!

Regulatory and professional bodies also have a role to play by holding agencies and professionals accountable for their work and wield the big stick when they default.

Practitioners and agencies must be deliberate about enabling transparency in their daily operations. This can be done through integrating data and technology into their work culture such that other persons can stay abreast on a project’s development.

It goes without saying that transparency and truth are integral to building trust. All three principles are closely related.

As we celebrate the second edition of the World PR Day, we are laying the foundation for a reformed PR profession.

Take the PR Pledge

As a practitioner, I answer the call of duty, to help people, companies and governments communicate more honestly and responsibly and help them to be more deliberate about using public relations to build, innovate and develop.

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