PR Campaigns – The blog

November 2, 2008

Will Your Character Save You?

Filed under: Iris Public Relations,Uncategorized — davemerenda @ 7:54 pm

This blog on Crisis blogger alludes that if you have  good character, any mistakes you make will be forgiven. I can not say I agree with this 100 percent, but a good reputation certainly can help in the event that you commit a blunder that is looked upon in a negative light. The reference the author of this post makes is in regards to a speech made by Pat Philbin and his former associate Aaron Walker at this years PRSA conference in Detroit. Many of you may remember the fake news conference FEMA stages in October 2007. Well, at that time, Pat Philbin was the head of external affairs at FEMA and Aaron Walker was the director’s press secretary. The author of this blog suggests that these men are of such high character that this stunt has not had any bad effect on their reputations. I’m not sure If I can agree with this, but to each their own.

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10 Comments »

  1. Having good character is probably one of the fastest ways to build a good reputation for oneself. PR in the past has had a negative connotation associated with it, because of the less than admirable ways some PR practitioners have chosen to handle situations. Though having good character is something that can help you, it does not necessarily right all one’s wrongs. PR professionals should have good character for the right reasons, not because they are hoping it will shield them if they mess up.

    Comment by brittz87 — November 3, 2008 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

  2. I don’t think good character is enough to save someone when they make a major ethical blunder. Staging a news conference is not something that should be tolerated despite good character because PR practitioners need to be extra careful if they ever hope to dispel negative perceptions in the industry. Although good character is an asset, I don’t believe it can solve everything.

    Comment by marialinda17 — November 3, 2008 @ 6:26 pm | Reply

  3. I would have to say that good character over the course of years does not give one carte blanche to screw up without consequences. Yes we all make mistakes, we are human. But I think where we get in trouble is when we say, “Oh, well so-and-so did this, but it really isn’t THAT big a deal, look at everything they have done in their career.” Look at Martha Stewart, she is a fine upstanding citizen and many people felt that she shouldn’t be treated harshly for her crimes of insider trading and in the end because she was a celebrity she got a lighter sentence. PR has had to battle its way out of the doghouse and if we let some people slide, we might end up sliding right back in with the pitbulls and poodles.

    Comment by wackyzachy47 — November 3, 2008 @ 11:13 pm | Reply

  4. I am not sure if I necessarily agree with this example of FEMA. I think especially in the PR field, a lot of professionals looked down on this decision made by FEMA. However, I do think that if one happens to make a huge error in judgment, it does not hurt to have a reputable past. If you act like a professional, other professionals in the industry will be more likely to forgive and forget if they think your intentions were good. On the other side, if you are constantly making bad judgments, then eventually someone is going to call your bluff.

    Comment by cclark2 — November 3, 2008 @ 11:18 pm | Reply

  5. I agree with wackyzachy here and I think that the reason Martha has that image is not because anyone knows her character personally, but because of the image and reputation that she has. Image and reputation management are vital parts of PR and the idea is that your stakeholders will view your client in a certain way. This image helps in many aspects, the least of which is if there is a mistake you have a strong history of good decisions. That doesn’t mean that you can’t fall from grace quickly, but people will be more inclined to continue thinking good things about your client if you handle the situation with character.

    Comment by agilliam — November 4, 2008 @ 9:10 am | Reply

  6. I don’t think that one could make such a large ethical blunder and then comfortably try and say that they have good character. Surely people would have a preconceived notion to think of them as unethical, and the reversing of such a notion would be nearly impossible. Thus, good character is a trait that someone should start off with, rather than trying to defend themselves after an ethical or moral dilemma.

    Comment by cate415 — November 4, 2008 @ 9:23 am | Reply

  7. I think having good character is extremely important in any profession. There are so many people out there who lie, cheat, and steal to get to the top. I believe that if you have a good heart and you do the right things then if you make a mistake here and there you will be forgiven. I’m not saying that you can make a huge, unethical mistake, but a minor one. Staging a news conference is a huge deal and I’m not sure I think good character can save them from bad image that incident would give to them, but it certainly won’t hurt them as bad as if someone who is already looked down upon did that. But I definitely agree with Brittz97 that Pr professionals shouldn’t only have good character just to save them if they mess up one day. You should have good character because it’s the right thing.

    Comment by dfishfel — November 4, 2008 @ 9:27 am | Reply

  8. Making ethical choices and having good character is extremely important, especially in a field where your reputation proceeds you. However, unfortunately, we live in a very critical society and as my dad always tells me, it only takes one “oops,” to lose years of good decisions. I think claiming that someone who has shown “good character” over the years will be somehow immune from the repercussions of an unethical choice is ridiculous. If that person’s “good character” was true to form then they would not have made that unethical decision in the first place. I am a firm believer in “you reap what you sew” and I find it hard to believe that society will let someone off the hook because of a clean track record. Having a good reputation and maintaining a good reputation should be because it is who you are and you are staying true to moral and ethical guidelines. Doing things for “good favor” so you can have room to mess up is a sad motivation to do the right thing.

    Comment by kristarogers — November 4, 2008 @ 9:39 am | Reply

  9. I think having good character is the first step when you mess up, but not the only thing that is needed. I think about the case study we just had and how after the explosion the company took care of the families who lost loved ones. That was a good first step in the character of the Company, but as we read further on, their investors were slowly losing faith in the company and their value.

    Comment by ambrewe1 — November 4, 2008 @ 10:26 am | Reply

  10. I don’t think that character alone can save you if you make a mistake, but it does help. I know that if I like someones character and they happen to say something I don’t agree with or do something I find in bad taste, I am less likely to hold it against them if I find their character pleasing. For example, if a company I like has a crisis or has an accident, if I like the company overall I am more forgiving. Reputation is very important in this instance to me.

    Comment by amyfoley1975 — November 4, 2008 @ 3:06 pm | Reply


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