How does ethical communication create success? A few words about building brand image and trust

In the digital age, where information spreads rapidly and the public is critical of the actions of corporations, ethics in Public Relations takes on a new dimension. Now, more than ever, it plays a key role in shaping brand trust. It is particularly important when reporting on the ESG activities carried out, which more and more organisations are being held accountable for, but also during a crisis situation. We explain, how reliable communication can influence branding and which the consequences that its absence can bring to a company.


What will you find in this article?


  • The importance of transparency. In the age of the internet and social media, transparency in a company's operations is essential to maintain trust.
  • Image crisis - how to manage your communications to recover from it and how the agency can help you successfully manage a crisis situation.
  • Communication of ESG actions. A few words about the importance of open and honest communication of environmental actions and Greenwashing.
  • The importance of collaboration and trust between the agency and the organisation to achieve measurable success.


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Trust is the cornerstone of the relationship between a brand and its audience. Without it, even the most creative efforts are doomed to failure. Ethical communication is not just about telling the truth. It is also how a brand engages in dialogue with its stakeholders, how it responds to crises, how it protects its customers' data and how it respects their values.


What ethical communication is, is defined by formally binding documents: such as the International Code of Ethics in Public Relations, prepared on the basis of the UN Charter, or the Code of Ethical Action in Public Relations, prepared on the basis of the ICCO Stockholm Charter. They are all based on the same values: truth, integrity, honesty and respect for human dignity. Companies that follow these principles gain trust not only in the eyes of their clients, but also build a solid reputation in the wider business community.

Of utmost importance for a brand, in terms of building customer trust, is its transparency. In today's world, where access to information is almost unlimited, openness and transparency are becoming not just an expectation, but a requirement. Social media, online forums and numerous fact-checking tools make it possible to verify all the activities of companies and institutions. When an organisation declares that it is taking concrete steps, its audience expects results. These must be implemented consistently and effectively and their progress should be communicated transparently. Companies that renege on promises or publish false information can quickly be exposed and their actions subjected to public judgement. In such a world, transparency is no longer a choice, but an imperative.


PR agencies can provide invaluable support in shaping a positive image. They are experienced in building a coherent media strategy and support organisations in creating compelling and engaging content for their audiences. They enhance its visibility and build relationships with contractors and brand target groups. Agencies, working hand in hand with companies, aim not only to promote them, but also to build and maintain this trust.


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However, even companies that go to great lengths to ensure that their business does not arouse suspicion can face an image crisis. Often, it is more than just a temporary stumble for a company; it is a test of character, values and resilience. A crisis can take many forms - from a financial scandal to miscommunication to unethical employee behaviour. It is also characteristic of crises that they usually erupt unexpectedly and can result in a change in the public's perception of the brand, a loss of trust and even a decline in the value of the company.


It is therefore important for companies to have a sound anti-crisis strategy in place so that they can respond quickly and decisively enough. Every organisation should assess potential risks based on a thorough analysis of its own situation, its environment and the market. In this context, a PR agency can provide invaluable support to its clients. It can help them not only in creating an effective anti-crisis strategy, but also by conducting transparent and ethical communication. It is essential that it is empathetic and that the company is accessible and open to dialogue with the public when faced with a crisis. We have written more about crises here:


An example of an ethical approach to communication is the Green Café Nero case. When the company faced an image crisis caused by accusations of selling products containing salmonella bacteria, instead of denying or shifting the blame to suppliers, it entered into an open dialogue with its customers. By taking full responsibility for the situation and officially presenting a clear recovery plan, the brand not only quickly regained trust, but also received support from internet users. It reinforced its image as a company that listens to and respects its customers.


Volkswagen behaved in the complete opposite way when the dieselgate scandal broke, when it was revealed that the company had been using software to falsify the results of emissions tests on its cars. The company's management initially refused to admit guilt, then tried to blame it on lower-level employees, claiming that they knew nothing about the illegal software being installed in millions of vehicles. Crisis communication, conducted directly by the corporation, was tardy and unclear. It was only a few days after the scandal broke that Volkswagen admitted to the manipulation and apologised for the incident. Although it eventually took corrective steps, it initially failed to manage the crisis effectively, which only exacerbated the problem. Consequently, the scandal resulted in massive recalls, multi-billion dollar fines for the company, the indictment of the company's CEOs and significantly damaged the brand's reputation. Dieselgate is an example of how important both prompt, transparent and honest communication and ethical action are in crisis management.


ESG is not just about declarations


Increased public awareness means that consumers expect companies not just to make declarations, but to take real action in the areas of environmental care, community benefit and corporate governance (ESG). It is therefore important that the projects undertaken by organisations are communicated openly and in line with their values. Transparency and accountability are inherent aspects of ethical ESG communication. Brands should speak openly about the real effects of their actions, as well as the challenges they face in achieving their goals.


A great example in terms of both the implementation and communication of ESG activities is IKEA. The company focuses on designing products that minimise environmental impact, e.g. LED lamps that use less energy, recycled furniture, etc. It strives to implement a closed-loop economy model, where materials are reused. Information about initiatives and production practices striving for sustainability is part of the brand's corporate communication. IKEA not only promotes its products, but also suggests to customers how they can realistically get involved in waste reduction, which strengthens its image not only as an expert, but also as their partner.


Unfortunately, the global trend of increased concern for the environment and consumers' expectations of companies in terms of sustainable production are increasingly resulting in so-called greenwashing, i.e. an attempt to present a company as being greener than it really is. As an example, we can take the case of Coca-Cola, Danone and Nestlé, which were recently accused by the European Consumer Organisation of misleading customers. As reported by the BBC, a complaint has been lodged with the European Commission against the manufacturers, challenging their claims that their bottles are made with 100% recycled plastic. We will still have to wait for the outcome of this case, but all companies have issued statements defending their position. They assure us that they are taking measures to reduce the amount of plastic used in the production of their bottles and to increase consumer awareness of recycling. We are extremely curious to see how the communication on this issue will be handled by the manufacturers and, regardless of the outcome, will they pass the ethics test?


Trust is the key to success


It is also worth remembering that effective and efficient communication is only possible with a full partnership of both parties. Public relations agencies work with diverse clients, which requires flexibility and the ability to adapt communication strategies to different business models and organisational cultures. These differences are normal and often unavoidable. Mutual trust, on the other hand, is of great importance - in crisis situations, the PR agency not only proposes solutions that are beneficial to both the company's image and business strategy, but also makes sure that they are in line with ethics and consumer expectations. Confidentiality agreements (NDAs), which ensure that information provided to the PR agency remains confidential, also play an important role in the cooperation. This builds trust between the agency and the client, which is essential for effective communication strategy management. The PR agency thus becomes a partner that helps to develop the best solutions, taking into account both ethics and strategic business objectives.


Ethics in PR is not just a set of slogans, but above all practical actions and decisions that shape a company's image. It is a long-term investment in reputation that brings both image and business benefits. Transparency, defined values, authenticity, responsible handling of crisis situations and clear communication of ESG activities are the foundations on which every company should be based. If you do not know how to conduct your own company's communication or would like to learn it from experienced PR professionals, we invite you to cooperate with the Good One PR agency.


Good One PR is a strategic communication management agency operating on the market since 2009. Our goal is customer satisfaction and the achievement of image and business goals. The agency is part of the Good One group, which ensures comprehensive services through access to specialists in other areas of communication, such as digital, social media, SEO and SEM.