When my mother and father are yelling at me, or what they to call parenting, to go to grad school, save my money, cut my hair and be straight, I tell them, “Yes. Okay. You’re right. Sorry for not listening to you sooner,” in order to get them to stop bothering me so I can go back to doing what I want.

And when they like to follow up with me and my path to righteousness, I follow up with, “Everything is going well. Love you.”

See my motives? I tell my parents what they want to hear so they won’t get angry and pry into my private life. Some people see it as lying. I see it as lying too. I am diverting myself from a problem by agreeing with something I do not agree with.

Let’s compare my methods of avoiding problematic situations to how Public Relation professionals avoid problems. It’s the same. Flat out same.

PR people want to focus on honesty, fairness, and loyalty, but realistically they adopt the appearance of acting ethical. In other words, PR folks pretend to be more ethical.

Shannon Bowen, a writer for PRWeek and PR Ethics professor at the University of South Carolina, wrote an article titled, ‘We are professional manipulators’ – PR pros, are we lying to ourselves?” In it she references two documents where she found PR professionals admitting they lie. One of her sources was from the 23rd International Public Relations Research Symposium, BledCom, and the other source came from a professor’s paper at the The University of Pretoria, Ronel Rensburg, “Lying to protect the organization: An occupational hazard?”

A PR professional from BledCom said, “Sure I lie, we are professional manipulators. That is what we do.” “I am the one really pulling the strings.”

Rensburg said, “Of course I lie ­– I lie because my CEO expects it. I lie to the media and my staff. I even have to lie to the CEO because I know more than he does.” Rensburg continued, “I have to lie to cover my CEO’s [butt]. If I don’t lie and make it all look better, he and a lot of others will suffer. So I lie. A lot.”

It’s funny because here we have PR professionals saying that they lie, but their career is devoted to being truthful and honest. PRSA, the world’s largest association for PR professionals states, “Public relations professionals have a special obligation to practice their craft ethically, with the highest standards of truth, accuracy, fairness and responsibility to the public. The PRSA Code of Ethics provides a practical set of standards to follow in this regard.”

Do PR practitioners lie?

Yes.

Do ALL PR practitioners lie?

No.

PR folks who use a two-dimensional symmetrical PR communication system value honesty and transparency because they are strengthening relationships as a business communicates with its clients and vice-versa.

You will see that governmental agencies, non-profit organizations and heavily regulated businesses use symmetric public relations because those organizations depend on open communication, which makes it harder to lie and fake honesty. Ever lie to your best friend? The person that talks with you daily will always be able to tell if you are lying.

Profit-driven companies will take an asymmetrical PR approach because they are more focused on getting people buy their product than creating a relationship with their customers. These types of organizations are going to be the least honest and hardest to call out lies because they do not proved means of open communication between the customer and the company.

I guess that’s why I lie to my parents… Because I am focused on getting them to do one thing… accept me.

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