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Public Relations v. United States Judicial System (2021)

Published on April 15, 2021 at 11:27 a.m. 
by Kris Scott.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, your honor and the entire courtroom, my client is innocent!

Public relations is a strategic communication process implemented by businesses, individuals and organizations. Utilizing specific tools and tactics, PR functions to increase awareness, enhance reputations and build relationships among key publics. Given the significance of such functions, recognizing how to avert and respond to reputation-damaging situations is imperative.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Though there have been numerous PR nightmares in recent years, one of the most prominent — especially for well-known businesses, individuals and organizations — involves the law. In fact, understanding how to effectively navigate the aftermath of a legal mishap is sometimes the difference between a successful or unsuccessful PR campaign.

Below are some laws PR professionals should be abreast of.

Defamation is a statement that injures an entity’s reputation. Clients risk defamation if they make false and harmful statements — either spoken (slander) or written (libel) — about other entities. In order to avoid this type of issue, PR professionals should advise clients on the consequences of speaking negatively about competition. Further, they should ensure opinions within communication tools and tactics are clearly labeled and that statements of fact are definitively supported.

Intellectual property
Intellectual property is any product of the human mind legally protected from the unauthorized use of others. Regarding PR, copyright, trademarks and patents are important. Before facilitating the release of any communication tool and tactic, PR professionals should ensure their designs do not violate any property rights of other entities. Likewise, PR professionals should guarantee trademarks and patents are registered for any material created specifically for a client.

Plagiarism is deliberately presenting someone else’s ideas or words as your own. Regardless of the amount, plagiarism has severe monetary and reputational implications for PR professionals. No less important, plagiarism can be catastrophic for clients. Specifically, plagiarism can hinder clients from building and maintaining consumer relationships. PR professionals are an extension of the clients they represent. As such, they have a duty to follow and adhere to a specific code of ethics. Producing original, honest and transparent work will ensure this goal is achieved.

Similar to confidentiality, an individual’s right to privacy refers to their right not to have personal matters disclosed or publicized. While it may seem harmless to publish an internal newsletter or share news about an employee with the media, doing so can cause unimaginable mental, physical or social harm to that employee. With this in mind, it is best that PR professionals seek permission before publishing any material containing photos or private information of individuals.

It’s no secret that lawyers are tasked with the difficult duty of leading situations in which the law is called into question. Still, being knowledgeable about basic legal principles can be immensely beneficial to PR professionals. Beyond any benefits, the interconnection between public relations and the judicial system offers professionals the opportunity to increase their adeptness — a feat crucial for success in today’s communication environment.

Your honor, motion to dismiss this case?

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