Would I lie to you?


I was recently accused – in a fairly mealy-mouthed, indirect way - of lying on behalf of a client and was more than slightly back-footed by the whole experience.

 It took a little while for me to get over myself and think “you’re a PR, not Mother Teresa; there are bound to be people who think you have no integrity”. After all, PRs are seen as being rumour-mongers and spin doctors by a sizeable proportion of the rest of the world.

But the experience opened up quite a few questions for me. Would I lie for a client? How much would I bend the truth? Would I lie by omission?

 Why would I lie? Integrity is important to me and not something you can mess around with. You either have integrity or you don’t – there are no half measures. 

 There is an argument that I might lie to protect my client’s reputation or to save face in some way but that’s not my way. The truth will always out at some point and will be much the more painful and humiliating than it need have been.

 My business is about finding ways to communicate and mitigate unpalatable truths and that is the way I have always played it. Life is much nicer when PR is just a matter of promoting a product or service but it is really at its most valuable for businesses when life is not a bed of roses and eggs are being broken willy-nilly to make omelettes.

 There is no comfortable way of communicating some issues: the answers are never black and white and there are always some tough questions. The PR needs to find a way to explain the reasons for a decision or an issue. The headlines may still not be favourable but at least the business has been able to put its side.

 That other old PR chestnut, “I’ll get back to you”, may well mean the PR is a) finding out the facts and b) having a heated debate with the client about how to handle them.

 So, no, I wouldn’t lie. I wouldn’t expect a client to ask me to lie and I am quite sure my clients wouldn’t dream of doing so. They would expect me to ask difficult questions and then to handle the fall-out to the very best of my ability.