Most of us know that good public relations practitioners facilitate access and operate in the background.
Apparently, George C. Deutsch, 24, didn’t see it that way. According to an Associated Press article, Deutsch restricted the press access to Jim Hansen, a noted NASA climate scientist, and insisted that a Web designer insert the word “theory” before any mention of the Big Bang.
I can understand that Deutsch might have some personal opinions about these topics, lots of people do, but his personal beliefs should not intrude on the client, in this case NASA.
In PRSA, we follow a code of ethics that requires the free flow of information and open disclosure of information. But the following provision of the code seems most appropriate:
Core Principle: Avoiding real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest builds the trust of clients, employers, and the publics.
- To earn trust and mutual respect with clients or employers.
- To build trust with the public by avoiding or ending situations that put one's personal or professional interests in conflict with society's interests.
Guidelines: a member shall…
- Act in the best interests of the client or employer, even subordinating the member's personal interests.
- Avoid actions and circumstances that may appear to compromise good business judgment or create a conflict between personal and professional interests.
- Disclose promptly any existing or potential conflict of interest to affected clients or organizations.
- Encourage clients and customers to determine if a conflict exists after notifying all affected parties.
The code requires us to subordinate our personal interests to that of the client, of course not to illegality. Also, if we have substantial differences in personal philosophy from our clients, it is our duty to stand down. Moreover, we should do so before we hurt the client by becoming the story, as Deutsch did in this case.
What do you think? When does personal belief trump the clients' interests?