By Nico Strydom
At present the public relations industry in South Africa is not officially regulated but there have been calls from many quarters that this should be done.
Renewed calls for the regulation of the public relations industry were heard after the Bell Pottinger saga when it was found that this organisation ran a campaign in South Africa to fuel racial tension. Bell Pottinger was later kicked out of Britain’s association for liaison and communication companies.
In South Africa we have the South African Public Relations Association, Prisa for short. Professional liaison or communication practitioners are not legally obliged to become members of Prisa. Prisa is one of the interested parties that are asking for the industry to be regulated.
However, many liaison or communication undertakings in South Africa are Prisa members and must then comply with this organisation’s ethical code and professional standards for the industry.
Prisa’s ethical code requires, inter alia, a commitment to ”ethical practices, preservation of public trust and the pursuit of communication excellence with powerful standards of performance, professionalism and ethical conduct”.
Should an individual or a company that is a member of Prisa transgress this code or cause the industry to fall in disfavour, that individual or company can be suspended or barred from the organisation.
The work of communication practitioners includes, inter alia, to manage public relations, provide information, issue press releases and decide about requests from the media, and to handle social media and/or advertisements for an organisation.
A communication practitioner also cooperates with most of an organisation’s role players, viz. management, target markets, investors, suppliers and the media and has a responsibility to help build a positive reputation for an organisation.
However, building and protecting a positive reputation can become difficult if you always want to serve the truth. As a communication practitioner you can never defend unethical behaviour, but there is a fine line and several characteristics are needed to make sure that you yourself do not overstep the boundaries.
Communication practitioners should at all times try to behave ethically, try to retain public trust, respect the industry and not to disgrace it, and to act accurately and with integrity.
The argument advanced for statutory regulation is that communication practitioners will then have to have at least the minimum qualifications and that ethical behaviour could be enforced.
Media Update: https://www.mediaupdate.co.za/publicity/139981/prisa-calls-for-regulation-of-the-pr-industry-and-adherence-to-its-code-of-ethics
PR Expert: http://prexpert.co.za/2017/12/04/pr-industry-professionals-must-stand-integrity/
The Media Online: https://themediaonline.co.za/2017/09/potential-formal-regulation-of-sa-pr-industry-on-the-way/