Independence

We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions. Part three of our six-part series highlighting the PRSA Code of Ethics principles.

By Lee Weinstein

Twenty years ago, PR staff weren’t in most of the rooms where C-suite leaders were making important decisions. Today, smart organizations know that to succeed, PR not only needs to be in the room, but will provide counsel to help them make better decisions that may ultimately drive strategies.

When we take on a new client, we commit to serve them as an independent resource. We aim to tell them the truth and give them our best advice, no matter what. Our role is listen and ask, to discern and consider, and then to provide objective counsel—even if they or their stakeholders don’t like it.

We need to be able to walk clients 360 degrees around an issue without mincing words—for their benefit and our own self-protection, so we don’t get embroiled in a communications mess, or have them tell us we didn’t warn them when it happens. It is our job to share the upsides and downsides as we see them, and to be prepared for clients to disagree, or to walk away if their choice isn’t one with which we can live

I once had a manager who coached me to, “Always remember your first instinct.” It was good advice, and is something to always come back to before making recommendations. Another leader came into our organization, looked around and observed, “There’s not enough gray hair in this department.” She was right: Experiences matter in PR, and every project, announcement, issue and crisis we work on makes us better practitioners.

Independence from our own biases needs to be consciously considered as well. As counselors, what don’t we know? What view isn’t represented and being considered? Whom else should we consult? Have we included diverse voices and backgrounds?

Independent counsel and expertise is what clients pay us for, and we must be accountable to them and ourselves. If we don’t deliver the goods (and sometimes, the bad and the ugly), we’re not doing our jobs.

(Lee Weinstein is president of Weinstein PR based in the Columbia Gorge and Portland, Oregon, and PR Boutiques International, an association of more than 40 boutique PR agencies in 17 countries. He is also author of “Write, Open, Act: An Intentional Life Planning Workbook.”)

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