Media and Reputation

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There are many examples out there in which the media takes a story, frames it one way or the other and presents it to the public. Some of the most popular and recent ones might be Megan Stammers and Jeremy Foster, the teacher and the under aged student that ran together for a holiday in France; another might be Jimmy Savile’s allegations that he had been abusing children during his life, and many more.

Jimmy Savile was a UK national pride whom is now accused of heavy sexual perversion. Worse than that? He can’t even defend himself anymore and everybody forgot to mention all the amazing stuff he has done in his life. This is how a reputation gets distroyed forever and the media is the presenter of the story. There are many sides to an issue. Sometimes the media’s framing over a story completely destroyed innocent people’s or organisations’ reputations, some other times the media was the one that helped solving a case. Problem is: when is it ethical and when is it not?

Perhaps, in a black and white world, the answer will be that it is not ethical to present a story to the public that has not been officially proven. But the best way to go around it would probably be to present an issue AS IT IS to the public, without any human bias, to present fairly and balanced all sides of the story and to wait for the official conclusion. But even like this there is a high chance that somebody’s reputation can be heavily stained, journalists are people and readers have the freedom of having their own opinion at the end of the day.

The use of media in such cases is sometimes useful, like finding some ones whereabouts, helping catch a fugitive of the law and so on. Completely forbidding the appearance of cases like this in the media, not only that does not apply with the liberty of speech but also it cuts from the power of it in situations in which it can be actually useful.

Therefore the best conclusion here would be to present a story as it is, without framing it or showing only one side of the issue. If there are allegations that have not been proven yet, they should be called so and the facts presented in the media should be presented without human bias and without any personal conclusions or opinions attached to it.

When it comes to PR though, reputation management would not be as exciting if the media would not stain reputations at the smallest gossip. On the other hand the media is not only a channel through which reputations can be destroyed but it goes both ways – it is also the one that can restore it. And in the end…we now have social media…any laws against the freedom of speech on ANY issue would be USELESS!


by Diana

No-comment…

Everybody lies and we all know it. We hide, invent or alter events for a variety of reasons: to avoid conflict, to protect relationships or to save reputations. But each individual defines “a lie” in his own way: withholding information, deceiving, omitting facts, misleading alternative beliefs, etc.

In the media, all over television and radio, we often hear interviewees responding to journalists’ questions with NO COMMENT. What do you think about when you hear those words? Do you still believe in what that person has to say? 

Personally, in such situations, I tend to question his/her honesty and transparency. On one hand, people choose to say NO COMMENT and withhold information just because they feel the need to play a safe card: saying nothing than answering to a question that you are not prepared to handle; words can destroy careers and reputations. But on the other hand, offering such a vague answer, often leaves room for interpretation. There are many cases when journalists invent facts or provide inaccurate stories about companies or individuals, just because the persons entitled to provide information choose not to. I certainly think that it is better to have an open attitude rather than avoiding communication with the media, as people often believe everything they read in newspapers, and inaccurate facts could damage reputations.

As many would claim, it is acceptable to say NO COMMENT when telling the whole truth would be damaging to a company or an individual. The main question that arises is: Is telling just a part of the truth considered lying? We all know that framing is a tool often used in the PR industry. PR professionals, when communicating to their target audience, often highlight particular aspects of an issue that might interest or appeal to that specific group of people. At the same time, they omit other details considered irrelevant or useless to that audience. Is this considered ethical? It should be. PRs are often in charge with researching and “translating”. They need to know what kind of information interests each group of stakeholders, and how to make that raw data accessible and easy to understand for them.

What do you think? What’s your reaction to a NO-COMMENT answer? Vote and share your views!  

By Ruxandra

Blabbing about what?

Public Relations (PR) is what I would define as ‘information flow management’, between an individual or an organisation and the public. PR attracts audience’s attention using topics of public interest and aiming to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, customers, suppliers, employees, governments, NGOs and other stakeholders in order to maintain a certain reputation about an individual/company.

As PR is based on public communication, it has always had special ethical responsibilities and challenges. This is due to the incredible potential they have for abusing their positions. The power to influence society means that PR holds enormous responsibility to be ethical. But what does being ethical mean?

Ethical principles have been studied since the period of the Ancient Greece with Plato and Aristotle developing the concept of the ’Golden Man’; when the classical philosophy collided with messianic monotheism the idea of ethics moved towards a deontological approach. The decision of right and wrong is decided on a universal basis, the Bible’s Golden Rule, “Do onto others as you would have them to unto you”. A more modern deontological approach is presented by Kant and the ‘Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals’ based on the role of cause and effect. Another approach to ethics, presented by English philosophers John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, is utilitarianism – ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. In the 20th century attention has been focused also on other theories such as: Subjectivism, Contractarianism, Existentialism, Cultural Relativism.

As we can see, there are a lot of different beliefs of what ethics are and how an ethical person should behave. A lot of people would simply argue that somebody who is ethical would always tell the truth. But how can we define which one is the truth? Furthermore, the ‘truth’, ‘media’ and ‘public relations’ are not three words that are likely to see put side by side very often but as Newsom (2010) affirms: “The extent and veracity of this relationship depend very much on the point from which you view the unholy trinity”.

Ethics are about values and personal, organisational and social standards. However, contemporary society it has grown more diverse along a number of factors, including culture, ethnicity, economy and class. Due to this diversity, ethical issues arise from conflict between experiences, beliefs, expectations and values. The evaluation of what constitutes ethical practice is more and more difficult because different people have different philosophies.

This blog will explore matters of public interest, how ethics have been used in different case studies and what was the influence of Public Relation in the discussed issue.

More information about ethics and Public Relations in:

COOMBS, W. T. and S. J. HOLLADAY, 2007. It’s not just PR. Public relations in society. UK : Blackwell Publishing

NEWSOM, D., J. V. TURK and D. KRUCKEBERG, 2010. This is PR. The realities of public relations. 10th ed. USA : Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Oana.