One of the key principles of public relations is to never deceive the public with any of the information that you or your organization releases; having the integrity to tell the truth. Warren Buffet once said “We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.”. While false information will always come to light in the end, the loss of public stakeholder trust is something that an organization may never regain no matter how many fun-filled campaigns they launch to patch up the wound. The practice of public relations is about uplifting an organization’s practices and building a positive image of said organization to its stakeholders, but public relations is also about defending the truth for the good of the organization and the general public; observing and protecting for greater good. By all means, this is no easy feat!

Some critics have even posed the question as to whether public relations can be ethical at all. Are there ethics in public relations? Many have argued that there are none as public relations is, after all, the practice of persuasion, manipulation, and even propaganda. This is unfortunately the belief of many external stakeholders such as journalists, politicians, and the general public. The most common ethical dilemma faced by public relations practitioners across the globe is the big and difficult question of loyalty – who are you loyal to?  Is your organization loyal to its investors, and therefore only focused on bringing in revenue? Or is it loyal to the public, with the determination of spreading beneficial information and messages to them? Why can it not go both ways?

Truthfully, there is no such thing as the perfect organization. However, you can definitely be sure to observe honesty and transparency in your operations, and constantly strive to do better and be better. PLUS Malaysia Berhad has always operated with these principles in mind and tries their very best to implement them in every level of the organization. From taking the Anti-Bribery and Anti-Corruption (ABAC) pledge in the presence of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), to receiving the internationally recognized ISO37001 Anti-Bribery Management System (ABMS) standard certification. PLUS even has their own tagline based upon this theme – #pilihintegrititiadatoleransi, or ‘Pilih Integriti Tiada Toleransi’ – roughly translating to choosing integrity without tolerating corruption, bribery, and anything that could pose a threat to its integrity.

PLUS even released their own guidebook on fighting corruption and bribery detailing their whistleblowing policy and guidelines, business associate relations, and governmental relations. The guidebook further explains the different forms corruption and bribery may emerge in and how each and every one of their stakeholders can identify and avoid them, from the top management to on-ground employees. Aspects such as identifying and resolving conflicts of interest, conducting due diligence, and managing gifts and hospitality are also explained in great detail. PLUS also has its own independent whistleblowing channel on its website where anyone can report real or suspected cases of misconduct at PLUS without having to fear a retaliation or reprimanding from the organization’s officials.

To conclude, while there are individuals who do believe that public relations itself is unethical, public relations can be practiced for good, and to do better for all stakeholders involved. Public relations should start with the right intentions from the heart. From those in the top management positions, to employees who are involved in groundwork, the internal stakeholders of an organization need to have good intentions toward external stakeholders in order for their public relations messages and initiatives to be received positively and have a positive effect on the recipients. We at PLUS personally strive to be a H.I.T – being Honest, having Integrity, and always being Transparent. Let us continue to choose goodness in a world that may tell us to do otherwise.