• “Alternative Facts” an Insult to Public Relations

    by  • January 23, 2017 • On Communications Tools and Tactics, On Public Relations

    Donald Trump grew up on the rough streets of Chicago. His father left home when he was only six years old, leaving his mother to raise Donald and his eight brothers and sisters. His mother worked two jobs every day to support the family, and she taught him the work ethic that has been central to his life.

    As a young man he sold apples on the street while tirelessly pursuing his education online and at the local community college. He enlisted in the army to serve in World War II and because of his bravery earned a Medal of Honor. Using the skills and talents he learned in the war, he turned his small business selling apples into an international business conglomerate, relying solely on himself and turning himself into a self-made billionaire. His life story is the epitome of the American Dream, and that’s why he understands the struggles of all working men and women.

    That story doesn’t ring true? Doesn’t match up with the “true” life story Trump has told voters?

    It’s OK. Those are just “alternative facts,” a new lexicon introduced by Trump confidante and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway when she defended the outrageous and indefensible lies Presidential press secretary Sean Spicer spouted in his first press briefing.

    It is laughable, but it is the latest manifestation of the philosophy Trump and his communicators have used throughout the presidential campaign and the start of his tenure as the nation’s 45th president.

    Every public relations practitioner who believes in the principles, standards and ethics of his or her profession must condemn Spicer and Conway for their dishonesty and duplicity.

    Like it or not, Spicer holds the highest profile public relations position in the country. Sadly, his words and actions represent our profession. Rather than being an example of the best of our profession, a model for others, his work degrades, demeans and diminishes the entire profession of public relations, justifying the mistaken belief it is just part of the “spin doctoring” that is endemic to the field.

    “Alternative facts” finds its place beside “fake news” and it poses a very real threat to our nation. Facts are facts, folks. Alternative facts are falsehoods and lies. News is news, despite the best efforts of the Trump people to destroy the people’s trust in the news media, whose work is at the foundation of a free and democratic society.

    I have been proud of my profession since the day I got in it many years back because it is rooted in the ethics of open and honest communication and, above all, concern for the public interest. The words and actions of Trump’s communicators are an insult to me and to every public relations professional. Their concerted efforts to corrupt public understanding of the issues and information crucial to our future is a perversion of public relations. It’s up to us to call them out for it. That’s a fact.