Everybody lies — or so it seems any more. It is expected. Denials. Posturing. Spinning of data. Spinning of the truth. Like I heard once from a lawyer — “I tell the truth in the way that will best benefit my client.” In other words spin the truth and lie for your own goals. So if everybody does it is it ethical? Absolutely not.
Public Relations (PR) and Advertising are similar in some respects — they are different vehicles for delivering a message. The goals are the same in many ways too — you have information and statistics and spin it truthfully in a way to best benefit your client. Should you lie? ABSOLUTELY NOT. It will come back to bite you. Do you bend the truth? Well… yes to some extent, but there should always be solid truth behind every premise.
In advertising, you don’t want to make false claims about a product or service. You may be called upon to verify the validity of your claims. Your statements? You have to keep them truthful. You should never lie. YOU SHOULD come up with ways to best tell the most important benefits of the product or service you are advertising. IF YOU HAVE TO LIE THAT MEANS YOU ARE NOT CREATIVE ENOUGH TO FIND A SOLUTION THAT WORKS. PERIOD!
And if you lie and you get caught you and your client could be liable for fines — fines that can run into the millions in some cases and damages (if proven) can be hefty. Plus the damage it would do to your client and your own credibility is not worth the risk. But wait — there is one exception!
Political Public Relations & Advertising
Political Public Relations (better known as spin) and Political Advertising have a life of their own. They answer to no one but big money and special interests. They have no morals, no conscience, no sense of decency. They have no regard for the truth. They are self-serving, self-centered, full of lies, deception, twists of the facts, stretches of the truth and they are above the law.
There is a major double-standard when it comes to Political PR & Advertising. Especially PR where NEVER are the perpetrators fined nor punished. Politicians look you in the face and lie to you. They look you in the face telling you what you want to hear while pretending they do not know the truth. They look you in the face thinking you are a fool and will believe anything they say. And sadly many people do believe them… That is the game they play and they play it for THEIR gain not yours. And the sad part is that it is expected and accepted! There are no consequences for lying if one is a politician. A true double standard.
It surely isn’t ethical, but ethics in politics is dead. Is it necessary to be this way? Depends on how desperate you are. What your ulterior motives are. And it depends on your level of greed and lust for power. It seems in politics the more powerful you are the more greedy you are. Politicians are in it for the money, not the good of the people for the most part sadly… There are very few exceptions. And for the most part politicians are not in touch with reality.
Nothing affects them. They give themselves different laws to follow. They are not affected by most of the laws they create for us, the masses. This is wrong. But no one does anything to stop it. And most people don’t seem to care — as the mindset in today’s society in the US is one of selfishness — I gotta have it now and what’s in it for me.
In Political PR & Advertising you are judged by your ability to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. The better job you do the more kudos you receive. Sadly that is where we are in this nation. Sadly that is what we have become.
Nowadays politicians who deceive are almost always put on a pedestal for their ability to deceive the public. It didn’t used to be that way. There used to be ethics in political spin. Networks used to demand truth in advertising. And politicians were shamed if caught lying, Some were driven out of office. And it really was not that long ago.
The importance of this Political PR posturing began in 1960 when Kennedy ran against Nixon in the presidential election of 1960 with really what were the first televised political debates. And although these debates aired in black and white, perception was the key. Kennedy was so much better looking than Nixon — had a tan… charisma… a presidential-looking suit and a very commanding presence on the stage. He was so confident in his statements looking you straight in the eye compared to Nixon that there was no REAL debate. Kennedy won hands down just by his looks. If you are not familiar with that debate you can look at it in the Prelinger Archives.
This was the beginning of the change in Political PR and Political Advertising. Because after this debate, television came to the forefront of the Political Advertising arena as the media of choice and perception became the most important element in persuading the masses to vote for one candidate or another. Perception has now become the key to winning elections. It is the drivers of poll numbers. Truth and integrity are meaningless. PERCEPTION of whether a candidate is honest is the key. Honesty is not important. So politicians and their handlers have discovered if you can persuade the public with what they want to hear (no matter if it is truthful nor doable) in order to make yourself look good and for your own personal gain and greed that is fine.
Really! And we have these politicians and President Obama and his staff spinning all kinds of things like they are doing us a favor. And the perception?
Let’s look at the perception of President Obama. His poll numbers are lower right now. But his charisma factor is high. He is charismatic like JFK was. He resonated with young voters because he was perceived as being cool. He comes across as charming and suave. But let’s have a look at his experience when he came into office. Did he have foreign policy experience? No . Had he run a company so he had hands on experience costing and budgeting? No. Well then what qualified this man for the office? Not much if you really think about it… very sad isn’t it. But people voted for him because of the color of his skin. Because of their PERCEPTION of him. Because he delivers a great speech. Because of his good looks, demeanor and charisma.
What is more troubling to me than the President’s lack of experience is the apathy of Americans. The unwillingness to investigate candidates. The ignorance to believe everything they hear in the news. Have we become a nation of “sheep” that we can be bamboozled by fast talking politicians? It seems so. And not many people seem to even care.
It does appear many are waking up to the realization that most of Washington DC think about their own pockets and not the good of the country. Lobbyists control politicians. Special interests manipulate things in their favor. Wake up America — you are being taken for a ride!
Why are we this way? Is it because elections start years in advance and we are so sick of hearing about politics that we just don’t care? Is it because people are now so greedy they want to believe anyone who promises them something? Or are they so desperate they grasp onto anything that promises hope?
It is interesting when you look at this behavior, because if people blindly believe politicians, then why don’t they react the same to spokespersons for products or services? Do people not consider political advertising as advertising? And if they don’t, why not?
It is interesting, isn’t it? Oh but if one uses a celebrity for a PR message and the celebrity is credible, then consumers believe the celebrity, don’t they?
So why are spokespersons for companies, usually high executives within the company or spokespersons, not perceived in exactly the same way?
Why do many Americans blindly believe and accept words as truth from politicians and celebrities? Is it because they admire them? Or because they fantasize about being like them?
But put he president of a company up there to talk about his/her products and with a few exceptions, they are perceived as not being credible — they must be exaggerating the claims of the products or services. Lying to save themselves. “They just want money” I can hear some say.
It really doesn’t make sense does it? It seems common sense is lost in America. Consumers are driven by dollar signs, not quality. So how do you handle PR crisis for a company? Or create an effective PR campaign?
Get a politician or celebrity to stand up for your product? Makes sense doesn’t it? They will be more believable won’t they? And if they lie is it worth the gamble? Lies do seem like business as usual, don’t they?
Has lying in Public Relations become the norm?
Makes you think, doesn’t it!
– Geri Konstantin