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PR Ethics: Turning to Jungian Ideas for a New Foundation

As an industry based on persuasion, public relations is one of the least trusted careers. PR specialists are often compared to sales people, journalists and politicians, all of whom have been known to distort the truth for their own personal gain. It is therefore essential that those working in this industry have a firm ethical foundation. For this, the PR industry should look to Carl Jung. As an industry based around narrative, Jung’s ideas can provide insight into how PR workers can simultaneously help businesses and provide value to the public.

PR as Storytelling

PR is a diverse industry which deals with every interaction that a business has with current and potential customers. It helps businesses to get their message out in the best light possible. Somewhat ironically, many people don’t understand what PR is or don’t trust professionals in this sector. However, this may be because the best marketing campaigns go unnoticed.

PR, therefore, isn’t just a press release every few months. It is an ongoing narrative which is sold to the public. In this sense, the role of a PR specialist is similar to that of a psychotherapist. Narrative therapy aims to help a patient rewrite the stories they tell themselves. For example, many people with problems identify the problem as an intrinsic part of themselves. By changing the narrative through Jungian psychotherapy, they are able to separate the problem from themselves and subsequently remove it from their life altogether.

Finding Truth in the Fiction

In Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung writes “Myth is more individual and expresses life more precisely than does science.” In this sense, there is a truth in storytelling. If the PR industry wants to maintain its ethical integrity, then all marketing campaigns must be oriented towards this truth. Jungian ideas can help communication workers to spread a story which is genuinely beneficial.

For instance, Jung’s four major archetypes - the Animus, the Shadow, the Persona and the Self - all exist to help guide a person through life. "All the most powerful ideas in history go back to archetypes," Jung states in The Structure of the Psyche. There is a potential for PR companies to use these powerful stories for their own corporate greed. If they can truly understand how their products and services can benefit individual wellbeing, then they have an ethical foundation which can restore trust in the industry.

Public relations and psychotherapy aren’t too dissimilar. They both sell a narrative to individuals. The former, however, must work hard to ensure it is doing so for ethical reasons. By studying the work of Jung, businesses can form more authentic and beneficial connections to the public.

~Jane Sandwood
Freelance Writer

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