I was riding my bike yesterday, thinking about this whole Lance Armstrong case getting stronger, and it occurred to me that athletes aren’t any different than PR professionals.

A couple of weeks ago, when the Burson Marsteller/Facebook story broke, many, many, many people called me naive. They stated examples where PR professionals create whisper or smear campaigns. The statement, more often than not while calling me naive was, “It happens all the time.”

It happens all the time.

I refuse to believe Lance has remained so staunch in his innocence for so long and he really is guilty. I refuse to believe this man, who is a cycling hero to me, really did use performance-enhancing drugs. When former teammates have come out and said they saw him inject drugs, I refused to believe it.

We all need heroes and Lance is mine.

Sure, I get that he’s not a nice guy, but watching him race is one of the most amazing things a cyclist can see. It’s inspiring and motivating. He’s a real hero.

And, apparently, he does drugs. Just like Barry Bonds and George Hincappie. Even the Bulls’ Derrick Rose has been accused.

It happens all the time.

But does it make it right?

A few years ago, I got into a debate with the CEO of one of the large PR firm/ad agency holding companies. He said our jobs, as PR professionals, is to tell the story for the client, any way that gets it into the news. I believe he even used the word “spin,” which really got me going.

The vision of Spin Sucks, and now Spin Sucks Pro, is a big one. It’s to change the perception of our industry. It’s to change this idea that we’re spin doctors and show that we’re ethical human beings who don’t lie or spin the truth to get attention for our internal or external clients.

I realize we’re small and we’re fighting the global conglomerates who believe in whisper or smear campaigns, just like the athletes who do drugs. It gives us all a level playing field if we all do it, right?

Just because everyone decides to jump off the top of the Sears Tower, does that mean you should too?

It has to start somewhere.

I wish we had a grand jury in Los Angeles to call in leaders of PR firms and make them testify under oath. I wish there were a body that regulated our industry and forced us to uphold the ethics that PRSA outlines for its members.

But we don’t.

So what are we going to do about the performance-enhancing “drugs” in our industry?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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