By Emily Heaton, Fourth Day PR

Authenticity is a word that means different things to different people. In the dictionary you’ll read that something authentic possesses, ‘the quality of being real or true’. To me, as a PR, this description particularly resonates with me. Being real and true is something my team and I strive towards on a day-to-day basis as we work on our clients’ campaigns.

PRs are famous for their ability to ‘spin’ a story, but this reputation is why it’s even more important for true authenticity to shine through in an agency.

There are lots of demands placed on you in PR and getting coverage for our clients is our top priority, but this mustn’t be at the cost of everything else. Everyone is still looking for their PR team to be trustworthy and honest. And ultimately, you can’t pick and choose when to practice these values – these things need to be considered in everything you do.

Of course, it would be disingenuous of me to write a piece looking at authenticity to not address an important aspect of PR itself – to write content on behalf of our clients. You could argue that this is falling at the first hurdle of authenticity, since we’re the ones putting pen to paper. I take your point. However, a great PR works with their clients to develop a true feel for their tone of voice and opinions. That, combined with the last edit from the client, leads to authentic content that has come from the mind of the speaker themselves.

So, if you’re on the lookout for a PR agency, or fancy getting into the industry yourself, here are my top three characteristics you should be able to spot in any authentic PR team and why they are must-have qualities.


Clients need to trust us in order to share sensitive company information and put the reputation of their business in our hands. It goes without saying that sensitive information from within a company, shared for work purposes, must not be repeated externally.

Journalists also need to trust us to work with us. They need to trust that the information we pass on is accurate and not misleading in any way – they would never forgive us for making them look foolish. If we fail to deliver on this unwritten promise at any point, it is highly unlikely that they would be willing to receive content from us again – a highly damaging consequence that all PRs should avoid at all cost. It is never OK to lie to a journalist (even if a client wants you to!)


We know that our clients come to us for our knowledge and expertise. This is why we will always tell our clients the truth even if it might not be well received – it’s important for us to speak up if we feel any of their ideas aren’t in the company’s interest.

A part of our relationships with journalists is also being able to level with them and only pursue an opportunity if we know our client can deliver on the deadline and brief. We don’t want to mislead anybody.

Genuine relationships

The ability to form genuine relationships is a crucial characteristic for every PR professional to possess. Journalists value a PR who doesn’t just treat them nicely when they want something from them. But forming genuine relationships takes time – it can’t be done overnight. PR agencies build relationships in years, not days.

Equally, our best client relationships are made when we genuinely get to know our clients as people and when they know us and how we operate. This helps us to work as one team, making the PR process much more rewarding for all involved.

There’s a misguided perception of PR that it’s all Ab Fab and that we all walk around in heels sipping cocktails like Patsy Stone. In reality, we spend a lot of our time at desks writing, emailing and speaking to our contacts on the phone forming genuine relationships (perhaps with an occasional drink in the afternoon here and there!)

This was originally featured on Authenticity Rules