Is public relations an indication of an ethical brand selling out?

I love ethical brands – those organisations that are founded on solid values, have a passion for what they do and communicate honestly with their publics.  But I fear for the survival of such companies when I see the hand of public relations promoting them.  Perhaps naively, I like to think that really great companies gain genuine word of mouth from endorsers – including the media – who want to buzz socially about them (which PR can help achieve).  But I’ve become suspicious following Ben & Jerry’s sell out to Unilever (others debate the necessity or otherwise of Body Shop and Green & Black being bought by big business).  In fact, I don’t eat the delicious stuff any more – favouring my local New Forest icecream instead.  So, I read the Guardian’s story on Ecover with dread – this is a great company with products that really work, yet are genuinely environmentally sensitive.  Of course, media coverage may help it secure the funding it needs to compete with the P&G or Lever (and the supermarket own-brands) and it does educate a wider consumer base – but cynically I feel this is first step in a sell-out.  I do hope I’m wrong. Perhaps I should direct Ecover to read Seth Godin blog on the ethical sell-out topic – which shows me I’m not alone with my thoughts.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

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