Good PR Counsel Should Steer You Toward Truth Telling and Accuracy


By Cindi Goodsell, Director

During the spring of 2017, nearly every major news service reported on the false information shared in President Trump’s Tweet accusing former President Obama of “wiretapping” Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign. One thing is certain, Trump’s presidency has ushered in an era where alternative facts—likely even more than real facts—are great fodder for reporters and they garner a lot of publicity and press coverage for the president, albeit mostly negative.

Press attention is what our clients want. But ethics matter—and all publicity is NOT good publicity. Lying hurts everyone, including the liar. Think of it on a personal level. Once you’ve been lied to, it shatters your faith and the next time around you find it harder to trust—and you may not want to have anything to do with the liar again. Lying is deliberate and when it backfires, the liar often looks worse than if they had told the truth.

When I see Trump’s alternate facts, I question how he is being counseled by White House press secretary Sean Spicer and strategist Kellyanne Conway, who both have years of experience. When each of them are on the podium defending or explaining the president’s promotion of alternate facts, I am reminded how critically important it is for leaders to have and hold onto good PR counsel.

Ethics has always been at the foundation of public relations. As professional communicators, we also counsel at the top levels of organizations on far more, including strategy, issues management, risk and crisis management, leadership, organizational culture and policy, and of course, ethics, among many other things. Our influence is significant and our ethics important, as we work with people throughout our client organizations. Having top communicators with anything less than the highest ethical standards can be detrimental to a company’s success.

Besides ethics, communicators innately know every company, no matter what they sell, is in the relationship business. Good products, services, and sales channels are important, but in this competitive business world, relationships are the fundamental to creating a lasting connection between a company and its customers. Good PR people are always thinking of clients’ public reputation and relationship with their audiences.

Even though we see that lies beget coverage for the president, the long-term results of such behavior can be devastating. Results are severe for dishonesty in business. Shareholders simply don’t trust a CEO who lies, and a plummeting stock price and destruction of stockholder value often ensues when the lie is discovered.

There’s an obvious conclusion for companies—stick to the truth. Hire a PR firm you can count on to spot and bring ethical issues up for discussion ahead of time. A firm like Harden, well-versed in crisis/issues management, helps companies identify and resolve problems before they become crises. (We’re also experienced in handling the crises themselves) We teach clients how truth-telling, providing accurate information and managing issues, before they become crises, allows them to prevent problems that can tarnish their image—and revenue generation capabilities—in the long run.