Monday, May 13, 2013

How many public relations hats do you wear?

How many hats do you wear in PR? Counselor? Writer? Media negotiator? Strategist?

Here's one more: ethicist. we need more authenticity. In PR. On Facebook. And maybe in life.

Brian Solis, who blogs about the impact of culture, technology and business, thinks there's room for much more transparency online. Brian had an interesting take on authenticity in public relations and social media, which you can read here.

He argues for disclosing your relationship with a client or company if you write a personal blog or reviews about that company's products. Brian's post doesn't directly talk about the 2006 "Wal-marting Across America" scandal, captured here. But the connection's clear.

Fast-forward; in 2013, authenticity is on the ropes again. Facebook and Twitter, in particular, enable unbridled "liking" and "following" of products, brands, and services. When we cheerily agree to use a Facebook app, we often give it permission to "post on your behalf." That means a birthday calendar app or even "Words with Friends" can post something as YOU -- and you did nothing to initiate that process.

I didn't sign up for that. And I'm betting you didn't either. Except you did.

The worst offenders: word-puzzles that "bet you can't name a state without the letter 'E'," or something similar. Harmless trivia? When you add your answer, the traffic tally rises for the original account holder. Often, it's a radio station goosing its Facebook stats so the site's algorithms give it more exposure.

Is it authentic? Hardly. Should you wash your hands after using Facebook? Yes, you should.

Much the way "Good Morning America" asks viewers to describe their week in three words, I counsel PR clients and colleagues with three words: tell the truth. Ivy Ledbetter Lee said, "Tell the truth, because sooner or later the public will find out anyway. And if the public doesn't like what you are doing, change your policies and bring them into line with what people want."

Ivy Lee had his conflicts, to be certain. So will Mark Zuckerberg. But with authenticity taking a beating, PR practitioners should do more to counsel their clients to be transparent when using social media to tell their stories.