– Western Europe Maintains Lead as World Region with Highest Confidence in PR Industry Ethics
The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) Ethics Council noted measurable fluctuations in specific regions of the world tied to the PR industry’s self-assessment of ethical operation, based on new data just released by the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) World PR Report 2021-22.
ICCO serves as the voice of public relations consultancies globally, with a membership composed of 41 associations and more than 3,000 PR firms across 70 countries, from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, and Australasia.
The ICCO World PR Report is the definitive study of the global public relations industry, conducted annually by ICCO.
Every year, it provides agency leaders with vital information on the composition and direction of the public relations industry, including an analysis of where the global PR and communications industry stands today; how it has been performing over the past year; and what it predicts will happen over the next few years.
Two years ago, in ICCO’s 2019-2020 World PR Report (with data procured in Q3 2019, pre-pandemic), the statement “The PR industry operates ethically” received a 6.8 global composite score of agreement on a 10-point scale (where 1 equals “strong disagreement” and 10 equals “strong agreement”):
Last year’s 2020-21 World PR Report (with data procured in Q3 2020) saw Western Europe surge to the regional lead ahead of North America, with a then-7.5 agreement index to “The PR industry operates ethically” statement, but with the global composite score decreasing from 6.8 to 6.3:
In ICCO’s 2021-22 World PR Report (with data procured in Q3 2021) just released on Nov. 17, 2021, the global composite agreement index to the statement “The PR industry operates ethically” improved slightly, from 6.3 to 6.5.
Geographic regions that increased in agreement-index from the prior year included Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Regions that lost ground with lower agreement ratings from the prior year included the Middle East, North America and Western Europe, although Western Europe continues to lead the world’s regions with the highest agreement-index score of 6.9. The United Kingdom maintained the same score from the prior year.
ICCO President and PRCA Ethics Council Co-Chair Nitin Mantri (Group CEO of Avian WE in India) said:
“Given our vast power to shape narratives across politics, business, and society, ethics must be integral to PR. And as custodians of truth and reputation, we understand that. It is, therefore, encouraging to see that in the face of rising misinformation, agency heads are operating ethically, and the scorecard has improved from last year.
“But now more than ever, the pressure on our clients, and us, to be honest is at an all-time high. Consumers want brands to do societal good, but they aren’t yet convinced that brands are delivering. They are aware of purpose washing and will call out an insincere campaign in a heartbeat. It’s our responsibility to ensure that our clients make genuine commitments to important issues and ground their statements in long-term, quantifiable action. And while we do this, it is essential that we – as an industry – be consistent, authentic, and empathetic. We need to stay true to our values and what we stand for, whether we are dealing with our clients or engaging with our own workforce.”
PRCA Ethics Council Co-Chair Mary Beth West (Senior Strategist of Fletcher Marketing PR in the United States) said:
“You can’t achieve credibility without accountability, and proving PR’s worth on both counts is essential for elevating our industry’s core value to clients and to the boardroom.
“From my own vantage point based in the U.S., it is beyond concerning to see a steady decline of North America’s prior industry-leading posture in 2019 of a 7.4 ethics-confidence index, to 7.0 in 2020 and now 6.6 in 2021. How much lower must it go before the North American industry cohort says, ‘Enough!… We must do better!’?
“PR industry leaders should encourage any colleague to report instances of observed and documented ethics misconduct, while vocally discouraging unethical management retaliation against those who are whistleblowers. Minus that, we will find ourselves in an ethics-compromised accountability / credibility downward spiral, with catastrophic economic damage.”
PRCA Director General and ICCO Chief Executive Francis Ingham MPRCA said:
“The PRCA Ethics Council is committed to raising standards in public relations all around the world, and it’s therefore important that practitioners reflect on the data contained in ICCO’s annual report. If we are candid, there is still much room for improvement, particularly because of the turbulent environment caused by Covid. The PRCA and ICCO have placed ethics at the heart of our work, and our resolve to drive change for the better has never been stronger.”