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Does Credibility Still Matter?

By Jennifer R. Farmer

Excerpted with permission

Early in my career, I learned public relations professionals should dutifully manage relationships with the media. Above all, I was instructed to guard my credibility; without it, I’d be of no use to my employer or the causes I represent. Having spent the last few weeks watching President Trump’s administration interact with the press, it’s tempting to consider whether the rules of professional decorum between journalists and the subjects they cover still apply. Further, is credibility a relic of the past?

Contrary to current events, credibility and decorum are as important today as they’ve always been.

During his initial address to White House correspondents on Saturday, January 21, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted that more people attended Donald Trump’s inauguration than any inauguration in history. Aerial scans of the crowd suggested otherwise …

Let’s be clear, Spicer did more than challenge something as insignificant as crowd size; he seemed to chastise White House correspondents before abruptly leaving the podium without entertaining a single question…

When pressed on why President Trump presumably ordered Spicer to quibble about a matter that could be easily disproved, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that Spicer gave “alternative facts….”

I don’t envy Spicer; he’s in a high stakes position, and has yet to find his stride with reporters or the new Administration. If Spicer were the only member of Trump’s team with bizarre interactions with the press, perhaps I wouldn’t spend my time writing this post.

Yet, President Trump himself spent the presidential campaign characterizing the media as “dishonest and untrustworthy….”

Sooner or later, these skirmishes will catch up with the administration. And it may happen much faster than any of us expect. Some outlets have grown so concerned about Conway’s credibility that they considered not booking her on some shows… Conway’s continued falsehoods are embarrassing, and counter to the level of decorum we as citizens expect in her position…

Jennifer R. Farmer is a strategic communicator and author of Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget. She’s based in Washington, D.C.

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