Professional Ethics for Freelance PR Jobs
Freelance PR jobs offer terrific flexibility in controlling your own career but there are certain responsibilities that come with that flexibility. One of the most important of those responsibilities involves professional ethics. Ethics are a bit more involved for a freelancer than for a regular employee. We will look at some of these issues in this article.
Even though you are not a long-term employee, you need to protect your client's confidential information as if you were. You are being trusted with the protection of the client's reputation and a breach of that trust is very severe. If the client requests that certain bits of information not be shared, make sure that wish is respected. Even in casual conversation with people you trust, do not leak any of this private information.
You want to err on the side of caution when it comes to this issue. If you're not sure information is private, treat it like it is until you are told otherwise. This extends not only to the client themselves, but also their family and business associates. You are hired for a specific task and make sure that remains your focus.
Conflicts of interest
This issue will almost certainly arise at some time during a freelance PR career. You may have just signed a contract to represent someone who was a rival of a former client or who had interests opposite your current employer. Even though you need to be loyal to the person who is now writing your checks, do NOT divulge sensitive information from a prior client. This is not only ethical, but it is good business sense. People will not do business with someone who is likely to "spill the beans." A PR person who can keep a confidence will get a good reputation and hence, more business.
You may get a lot of pressure from a client to "dish the dirt" on a former employer. Stay polite but refuse to give the information and tell the client that you will show him the same respect in the future. If this is not enough, you'll want to think about ending your relationship...you can do better.
You have been hired to give as positive a picture as possible of your client. Never fail to do this, even when you're in a pressure situation. You don't need to lie or mislead to protect the client but you don't need to agree with bad allegations. Put a positive spin on things and give as little information as possible. This is the hardest part of a PR person's job...dealing with negative publicity...but it comes with the job and you owe it to the client to do your best.
If you make an error or a bad judgment in service of the client, own up to it right away. It's a very difficult thing to do but in the long run, your own reputation will be better for it. Be accountable for your own actions; this is the cornerstone of business ethics.