Monday, November 24, 2008

PR - An Ethical Dilemna

In my networking attempts, I reached out to a friend asking if he knew of some financial advisors looking to start reaching out to clients and media. It seems to me that when things are in flux, confusing and somewhat dire, keeping your clients informed - even if it's just to let them know you have their back - is vital.

He told me to check out this new PR Firm and even suggested I "hook up" with them. The firm in question is quite interesting. It's being created by CNBC analyst Dan Abrams (pictured) who was passed over for a larger gig at the network. So he thought he'd start a PR Agency that would tap into the expertise of working journalists - and those journalists who due to the hard times we're in today, are no longer "working."

At first blush it seems an interesting proposition. PR is all about getting your message out with as much control as you can negotiate. But for a working journalist to get paid for giving PR advise, it does cross that ethical boundary. And given the transparent world we live in today, it invites even more questions about the sanctity and independence of the press.

We all know Fox News, WSJ and NY Post -- or any news outlet owned by Rupert Murdoch has bias. But knowing that bias is there, we can read between the lines.

When the insights and machinations that go on behind the scenes to negotiate a story are influenced by reporters, we don't know what lines to read between.

As a former reporter and longtime PR person I know that I frequently interview reporters about potential clients to get their view of the landscape. But these same reporters are not going to help me guide a story when I then come to them with a pitch. Or even when they come to me wanting to confirm some rumor.

The challenge today for businesses in every sphere is keeping up with the blogosphere and having influence on blogs. While like trade pubs of old they are derided inside companies as nothing more than gossip rags, we all know that where there is a little smoke, there's a little fire. We also need to realize you can't control everything. Far better to try to conduct your business in an open and honest way. Any reporter whose credibility is intact will never forgive the slightest misleading comments or influence. These are tough times. Facing it honestly is the way to go. Trying to influence it with spin control will make it worse.

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