Andrew Graham
Andrew Graham

On Nov. 7, as poll workers in Pennsylvania counted batches of ballots from the Philadelphia area behind a webcam set up to broadcast a live, public feed of their work, networks called the 2020 presidential election for the Biden-Harris presidential ticket. Reality seems to have yet to set in for President Trump, but it does not matter. Joe Biden is president-elect of the United States.

Broadly, the Biden-Harris victory means one specific thing for the public relations profession. It means, as the incoming administration revs up its engine to begin the reputational recovery that is so sorely needed, that the door is wide open for public relations professionals to step up and play a meaningful role in that recovery.

Now is not the time to further document the myriad policies, programs and actions that the Trump administration’s people have devised to fuel hate, divide Americans, and poison the values our country ought to fight to uphold. The naked cruelty of it all wasn’t some unavoidable consequence of ideas or policies gone awry. The cruelty was the entire point.

So, let’s see to it that people with these toxic beliefs never again have the platform that they thirst for. This administration’s henchmen and henchwomen don’t deserve the convenience of a performance review from the rest of us. And they don’t deserve to breathe the same air as their victims. History will judge them harshly.

Instead, now is the time to look ahead to the Biden-Harris recovery agenda. President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris have a lot of work in front of them, and I know they’re up to the task. Their collective leadership must shepherd the country through a complete reputational recovery unlike anything seen in a century of United States political history. They must find a way to recapture the trust that the outgoing administration lost and to earn back the reputational capital that it squandered.

Over the past four years, the current administration, along with their acolytes in the Senate, have made a strong country weak. They have discredited the country’s essential institutions, eradicated its political norms, and damaged its relationships with allies.

We in the public relations field can do more than support this reputational recovery. We can lead it. In fact, we must, because without our leadership, it won’t get completely done.

We can do this by standing up for our peers at legitimate media outlets, the many reporters and editors who do the tireless, often thankless work of reporting on the truth as it presents itself. We can do this by fully committing to practice that is not only ethical, done in accordance with the PRSA Code of Ethics, but also moral, calling out unethical or immoral practice, no matter when or where we see it taking place. We can do this by pushing clients and colleagues to not only say things, but also to do things that put them on the right side of history.

We can also do this by making diversity and inclusion a serious priority for our profession. So many Americans, both inside and outside our field, have never felt welcome or valued in business or in society. And that’s because they haven’t been welcome or valued.

I am not asking every public relations practitioner to become a progressive activist, and I am not trying to convince Republican-voting PR pros to change their political affinity. What I am asking for is a commitment to truth, honesty, and transparency in communication, an acceptance of the outcome of this election, and an affirmation to treat our work as the public interest service that it is.


Andrew Graham is founding partner of Clear (, an issues management practice, and president-elect of PRSA-NY.