Ethical challenge facing PR practitioners in 2021

Isil Aridag, CEO, Unite Edelman Turkey

Reality Versus Truth

In this unprecedented era of pandemics; rising social tensions; unstable politics; financial uncertainty; mass unemployment; misuse of technology; and escalating natural disasters; trust matters more than ever.

According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report; among NGOs, governments, and media – only companies and brands are seen as having both the competencies and the ethical resolve needed to tackle today’s problems. Nevertheless, people still question the gap between the projected reality of a company and the truth of how they actually behave.  As comms consultants, we are tasked with a huge and vital mission to foster sustainable, purposeful, ethical business models that protect people, society, and the environment; and to create economic and social value. Consequently, communication in this new age will shift from the traditionally assumed roles of B2B and B2C to a new norm B2H. Business to Human.

The Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report also states that most consumers believe they have the power to force brands to change to take purposeful actions.  Communication practitioners should keep in mind that while acting as loyal ambassadors, consumers may also easily turn into hardened activists and jaded protestors.

The report shows that in our current age, trust in all information sources is at record lows. The public are more sceptical than ever; they doubt the reliability of information; and are wary of disinformation and misinformation; and are confused by knowledge inflation. The challenge for the communication industry, then, is to establish an accountable platform to reach out to, influence, and convince the mistrustful audiences.

The other challenge for communication people is the enormous effort needed to adapt to rapidly developing technology and guide constantly changing social media policies while protecting the privacy rights of all stakeholders. Legal and ethical regulations are a “must-have”. Yet these, sometimes curtail the possibilities of a competitive communications program that stands out among competitors. Alongside this, “strategic creativity” seems to be another challenge.

A trustworthy communication climate and excellent ethical standards can only be achieved when all stakeholders plan, pledge, and act in a collaborative effort. Furthermore, businesses must also “say” and “do” the same. Then, reality becomes truth.

Using these truths to appeal honestly and transparently to the audiences, we can leverage true B2H communications and begin to navigate the multi-layered and integrated landscape of the present day, where trust is needed more than ever.

Follow the hashtag #prethics for more throughout ethics month