Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Don't Bother 

I admire Richard Edelman and his blog, but he and other commentators in the last day are tilting at windmills. He expressed an urgent need for strong ethical rules in PR and for a better image of the business.

I wish I could support him, but I've been around this block too many times. Long ago after yet another failure of the industry to discipline itself, I concluded there is no chance of it ever happening. The reasoning is simple. PR is a Free Speech business. Anyone can hang a shingle and call himself a PR person. That means the field will always harbor scoundrels as well as professionals. But isn't that true of the law and of accounting? Ethics in PR are what you bring to the table and not what the industry brings. If you act ethically, people will know that you do over time. If you don't, they will know that too. How you counsel clients also will type you over time. If you are a propagandist, you will be treated like one. If you are an objective counselor concerned with reputational issues, you will be treated that way too.

Forget the industry. It can't get itself organized, and it doesn't want to. There are too many opportunities to make money on the edge of of the business. So, sorry fellas. Count me out.

This industry is what individuals make of it.

And further more, Mr. Edelman knows something about ethical issues. His agency's experience almost single-handedly inventing "astroturf" on behalf of Microsoft was very, very ... impressive. So, Mr. Edelman knows whereof he speaks.

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