Working in public relations is sometimes described as spin. Spin is just another word for expressing a perspective. We all do it. That being said, spruiking an absolute objective truth is not always the way the world works. There are many sides to a story. It’s important to know that any public relations practitioner abiding by the code of ethic should value transparency and honesty above client demands.

When it comes to relationship building and reputation management — the core of my trade — perception is reality.

If something is said about a particular person or organisation that damages or challenges its version of truth, defending or clarifying the issue is vital in managing reputations.

Recently the City of Greater Geelong (my local government area) has been accused of not being completely transparent about an annual allocation of $600,000 to each of the 12 Ward Councillors.

A war of words has ensued. And from media reports, there is a debate about the importance of transparency to the community versus legal obligation. While the legal obligation appears to be clear, the perception to the community is that there are funds totalling $70M since 2004 that have not been clearly accessible to all parts of the community.

As the debate continues, there is a clear need to appreciate that the perception of a lack of transparency in process and decision making is damaging. While the reality is still being uncovered, the Geelong community is faced with issues of trust in their elected representatives.

When I was young, my mother always said to me that it’s not enough to not do bad things but to also not appear to be doing bad things. This was her way of saying “Keep your door open if you have a boy in your room.”

Even if everything done behind closed doors is with good intention, the perception of what is going on may be different. Keeping the door open is a great policy for people in positions of power.

Jennifer Cromarty

Author Jennifer Cromarty

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