Ethics for PR, Where Trust is Under Threat

The advice that we offer to clients as public relations practitioners is enshrined in the belief that ethical behaviour should be sacrosanct in all dealings. PR is not there to white wash or mask bad or irresponsible corporate behaviour.

PR Professionals must safeguard the public\’s trust.

José Antonio Llorente, Founding Partner and CEO of Llorente & Cuenca says that our reputation as PR experts is at stake; especially, the trust society has placed in our role.

“Trust is a delicate, fragile and valuable thing we need to nurture, protect and defend with determination,” he emphasises.


PR Professionals drive protection of reputation.

The responsibility to ensure that an organisation’s reputation is protected does reside with the CEO. However, it is the timely advice and guidance of the PR professional in the organisation that should drive the process. Ensuring the company\’s image is beyond reproach sits on the shoulders of the PR professional.

History is replete with consultancies that have either been disbarred or fallen out of favour because of unethical practice.

Of Bell Pottinger, BP and KFC

In 2016 the firm took on a dubious client: the Gupta family of South Africa. It was responsible for hewing a social media campaign whose goal was to exploit racial tension in South Africa to further its client’s agenda. Details of the campaign leaked and the rest is history.

The once celebrated global PR Company was unceremoniously expelled from the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) for its part in stirring racial tensions in South Africa. Its famous former chairman, Lord Tim Bell, former communication advisor to Margret Thatcher died recently. The company he formed, no longer exists.

We have seen how big corporations such a BP (after the forgettable Deep Horozon oil spill) and the likes of KFC (on accusations of racism) have worked hard to recover damaged reputations, often costing millions of dollars to clean up.

PR practitioners must be ethically sound.

Apart from striving to be beyond reproach when it comes to ethical behaviour, Llorente describes PR practitioners as “legitimate moderators in the relationships between communities, companies and people”. They must be the embodiment of trust in the organisations they work with.


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