Thursday, November 03, 2011

Even Scientists... 

News that a Dutch social scientist faked several research papers is a reminder to communicators to be skeptical.  Even scientists can be bamboozled.  There is no refuge in willful ignorance.  This is a stance some practitioners take of communicating what they are told without question.  They see themselves as mouthpieces without neurons attached.  It is the client's job to be accurate, they say.  

This is not and has never been true.  The PR practitioner serves as an editor as well as communicator.  The practitioner's job is to make sure that whatever goes to the media is accurate, so both the client and practitioner maintain credibility.  Those who don't earn the reputation of flacks and the ill will of reporters and editors.  Of course, even with best efforts a scientist and communicator can err, especially if another is skillful in lying.  When that happens, one should admit it immediately upon discovery and take steps to remedy the mistake, as is happening with the Dutch social scientist.  Scientists abhor those who violate principles:  practitioners should do the same.

Research in public relations is a never ending aspect of the job. When writing anything, whether it be a pitch, release, alert, advisory, etc, checking your facts goes without question. A public relations professional needs to be skeptical in believing anything that crosses his or her desk, no matter how legitimate it looks and reliable it seems. Additional fact checking might add more time onto a task in the short-term, but will save a lot of costs for long-term damage.

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