Chairs Message - Does bullshitting cross cultures?

Saying something new about the Volkswagen crisis has become harder once excellent analyses appeared, e.g. in PRConversations ( or from IPR, a member of the Global Alliance (│-in-full-speed-mode).


After all, the public relations industry in any GA member country will quickly find itself on the same side of the issue: Lying is wrong and nearly every national association has ethical standards or accreditation requirements banning it, as we’re seeing in the project on a global body of knowledge [INSERT LINK]


Sadly however, two problems still waft around like diesel fumes in all parts of the public relations world: firstly, lies sometimes get told in public relations, as research by Ronel Rensburg of PRISA showed recently (; secondly, lies told by leaders show that their public relations teams haven’t counseled them properly.


We need to better specify what lying is and when it becomes ethically or professionally unacceptable in public relations. Is it acceptable to lie when one doesn’t have a choice? When trying to protect the organization? When omitting information that wasn’t asked for? The answers will likely be nuanced across cultures, so we need a global debate to find common standards.


I suspect that bullshitting happens much more frequently in public relations than outright lying [MAKE TWEETABLE]. An object of serious - if amusing - exploration by the Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt (, bullshitters don’t know (or care) enough about the veracity of their communication to test it or have it tested by their audience, which in turn doesn’t care enough, either. A two-way feeling of authenticity will do just fine.


Combatting bullshit in PR will require an even more rigorous debate across cultures, between national public relations associations and over public relations curricula. The upcoming World Public Relations Forum is dedicated to Communication Across Cultures [INSERT LINK TO WEBSITE] and will be the largest platform our industry has. Registrations are open and I warmly invite you to join us.  Where, if not in Toronto 2016, can we have the necessary global conversations.