Today marks 246 years of independence for the United States of America. While our nation is still learning and growing in many ways, it is important to recognize and celebrate some of America’s core values that allow us to live freely.
The first amendment written into the constitution by our founding fathers states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
So now we must ask the question: Why is the First Amendment important for PR?
The Arthur W. Page society, which is an association for public relations leaders, created a list of “Page Principles” that are inspired by PR pioneer Arthur Page’s work and are used to “embrac[e] the highest professional standards.” On this list, the very first principle mentioned is to “Tell the truth. Let the public know what’s happening with honest and good intention; provide an ethically accurate picture of the enterprise’s character, values, ideals and actions.”
Especially as we work with journalists to get press coverage for our clients, it’s important that public relations professionals have the freedom to be honest with the public. Laws in other nations force PR professionals to spread government propaganda or not discuss certain topics. Freedom of the press and speech allows American PR practitioners to tell clients and their publics the truth about situations, which allows our audiences to trust us and establish stronger relationships.
The First Amendment also allows public relations professionals to work for a variety of clients. From protecting Americans’ right to practice religion freely to protecting freedom of speech that allows Americans to voice their opinions, the First Amendment allows PR professionals to work for organizations that align with their beliefs. Even if that belief is controversial or does not align with the government’s practices, so long as we do not inflict harm upon anyone, we have the protected right to advocate for our beliefs and the beliefs of clients. This is what makes PR meaningful: that we have the freedom to make a difference and stand up for what we believe.
With the right to assemble and the freedom of speech comes the ability for PR professionals to be innovative and bold about their campaigns. If you want to put up posters or billboards to spread a message, you can do so. Similarly, if you want to change the public’s attitude by hosting an in-person event, you have the freedom to organize that event. Campaigns can come in a variety of forms.
No matter what your organization stands for or how you want to go about creating a campaign, you have the right for your voice to be heard. One of the great things about our country is that we have the right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” As PR professionals and pre-professionals, we have the ability to use an organization’s platform to speak out about important topics and petition for change.
I’m grateful for the freedom we have as Americans, but I’m also very excited to see how you all — as the future of PR — use the First Amendment to continue changing the PR industry and helping America reach its fullest potential. Happy Independence Day, everyone!
Nicole Steele, PRSSA 2022-2023 National Vice President of Brand Engagement, is a junior at Biola University majoring in public relations with a double minor in communication studies and biblical & theological studies. She found her passion for public relations by volunteering in a branch of the Boy Scouts of America known as Venturing, where she currently serves as the founder and editor in chief of their national publication. She has also practiced PR in a variety of other positions, including as the communications intern at Benchmark and the account executive at her school’s PRSSA-affiliated, Student-run Firm. If you’re interested in writing a future Progressions article or simply want to connect with Nicole, feel free to reach out via email or LinkedIn.