How Elizabeth Holmes Could Have Saved Her Career with Some Advice from a PR Pro

Image source: Vanity Fair

If you have browsed any news source lately, you have likely seen the inescapable news updates from Elizabeth Holmes’ trial. Holmes, the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire and founder and C.E.O. of Theranos, a blood-testing company, is being indicted for defrauding investors about the capability of her product.

As an aspiring public relations practitioner, I have analyzed this trial from a public relations perspective. I see the actions of Holmes to have boldly negated the PRSA Code of Ethics. If only Holmes were to have a trusted PR professional by her side to advise in favor of this code, perhaps her decision-making, along with her fate, would have been different. In the following paragraphs, I state three ways in which Holmes ignored honesty, advocacy, and loyalty, core values of the PRSA Code of Ethics.

The first value of the PRSA Code of Ethics that Holmes dismissed is honesty. Holmes deceived many investors at a large expense, approximately $9 billion. Her product did not have the capability to perform in the ways she advertised it to. Holmes took the “fake it ‘till you make it” attitude too far, resulting in her ego exceeding ethical standards.

The second value Holmes disrespected is advocacy. As a woman in business and science, Holmes had the opportunity to advocate for women in Silicon Valley, a male-dominated culture. Some argue that Holmes needed to make bolder claims to investors to combat the sexist cards stacked against her. However, I believe the spotlight Holmes was in called for ethical decision-making more than ever. Unfortunately, this was a missed opportunity to lead by example.

Lastly, Holmes disregarded loyalty. She falsely advertised a product that would have been used in the medical field if she had not been stopped. Holmes had an obligation to be loyal to her public, including her stakeholders and those who would have used her product.

-Hannah Hughes, Account Associate

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