PA Cooperative News

Treading Carefully: Privacy Laws and Pre-election Sensitivities for PR

Feb 7, 2024

In the ever-changing world of public relations, the lines between public transparency and personal privacy are increasingly blurred. Recent high-profile cases have highlighted the need for heightened legal awareness when managing any organisation’s public presence. Understanding the complex legal and ethical landscape surrounding public relations is more important than ever before.

As a leading public relations firm spanning public affairs, media relations, and political PR, PA Cooperative navigates these spaces daily. We enable businesses, campaigns, and public sector clients to create communications strategies with impact – balancing public visibility with privacy rights and protections. Our expertise ensures organisations across Scotland and beyond maintain that delicate equilibrium.

In this article, we spotlight key legal considerations around privacy in public relations contexts. Whether you represent a business, a political entity, or an individual, grasping these principles allows for full, ethical participation in public debates. We provide practical advice for managing legal boundaries around organisational publicity and transparency. Upholding codes of conduct while publicising your activities or influencing the political process need not be at odds.


Navigating PR and Privacy

In an increasingly data-driven world, public relations activities directly intersect with evolving privacy laws – especially in the UK. Core regulations like the Data Protection Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) govern how businesses and organisations collect, store, and leverage personal information.

Compliance has become more complex, but also more critical. Handling personal data ethically and legally is now an organisational necessity, not merely a recommendation. As a best practice, consent procedures should inform subjects on exactly which personal data gets captured for public relations and to what ends. Total transparency around data usage builds trust.

For public relations firms like PA Cooperative, awareness of these laws allows proper guidance of clients in media relations contexts. Personal information may appear within promotional materials or press releases. Yet individual privacy rights temper any public right to access. Our duty involves striking an equitable balance, maintaining positive media relationships while advising on legal data usage.


Media relations and confidentiality

In media relations, confidentiality is a primary concern to keep in mind. PR agencies such as PA Cooperative must balance the legalities of sharing information with the media — all while safeguarding sensitive details. This includes understanding the implications of confidentiality agreements and the legal consequences of any harmful breaches.

It’s about striking a balance between being open with the media and protecting client interests. For agencies like us, this means being aware and knowledgeable about the nuances of media law so we can provide the best service to our clients.


Ethical considerations in political engagement

Political engagement poses unique challenges when it comes to privacy. Government relations activities must adhere not only to legal standards but also to ethical considerations.

Political campaigns should always respect the confidentiality of sensitive information and ensure that any public disclosures are made in a manner that is both legally compliant and ethically sound. This involves a thorough understanding of the laws surrounding electoral communications and the use of personal data in political campaigning.


Pre-election period of sensitivity (purdah)

With a general election expected in the UK later this year, one of the key issues to consider is the pre-election period of sensitivity. The pre-election period of sensitivity occurs in the weeks leading up to an election or referendum. This period is also called the period of ‘heightened sensitivity’ and in the past was often known by the term ‘purdah.’

During this time, governments, ministers and civil servants will exercise caution in making announcements or decisions that might influence the election campaign. The exact period depends on the type of election.

The pre-election period for the UK and devolved governments and their civil servants is not set out in law but is governed by conventions.

Depending on the organisation, pre-election rules might apply. It’s always worthwhile checking these rules before undertaking any form of political engagement in the run-up to a general election.


Transparency VS privacy

Public affairs campaigns require carefully balancing transparency and privacy. While transparency builds trust and credibility (especially in government relations), sensitive information must also be protected.

Public affairs agencies must adeptly advise clients on what information should become public and what should remain private. This necessitates a deep understanding of legal landscapes and the ethical implications of disclosing information.

With lobbying legislation developments since 2010, PA Cooperative strongly believes transparency beyond mere compliance is essential. Modern political communications centre on openness regarding activities and desired outcomes. We strongly advise clients to report on each meeting held with political representatives, detailing discussed issues and achieved outcomes. Generally, this path best achieves long-term policy goals.


We can help achieve your policy objectives

At PA Cooperative, we understand that navigating the complex world of public relations and privacy can be daunting.

That’s why our team of experts is here to guide you through every step, ensuring that your public relations efforts are both impactful and compliant with the law.

Whether you’re looking for support in public affairs, media relations, or political PR, our simple yet effective approach is tailored to meet your unique needs.

Get in touch with us today, and let’s start working together to achieve your goals while upholding the highest standards of privacy and legal compliance. Visit our pricing and rating pages to find a package suited to your business.