In the past few weeks, I’ve found myself focusing a lot of thought…and putting words on paper…about ethics and ethical behavior. This is in large part due to my involvement as Ethics Officer for the Tampa Bay Chapter, Public Relations Society of America, and Ethics Committee Chair for the Global Listening Centre.
I’ve also spent a good bit of time in my “Intro to PR” classes, previously at Curry College and now at The University of Tampa, trying to get the point across to would-be communicators…PR, advertising, whatever the focus might be…that ethical thought and action is non-negotiable. You can’t be “sort of” ethical. You either are, or you’re not. The Public Relations Society of America has a very comprehensive Code of Ethics to help members and others get a handle on what IS and ISN’T considered “ethical” behavior.
I like this quote from Edward L. Bernays, who I had the great honor of knowing in the late 80s/early 90s in Boston: “The general attitude toward public relations, now only four decades old, is often characterized by ignorance, prejudice, skepticism, apathy and confusion.”
This was more than 50 years ago, and I would offer that, while we have made some headway in the public perception category, there’s still a lot to be done, not the least of which is a more proactive effort to educate both PR professionals and the general public. And to figure out some way to regulate our profession so that, for wrongful actions, there are clear and enforceable consequences.
But that’s enough lecturing for today. My main purpose here is to get you, my patient and loyal reader, thinking about how you, yourself, “do business,” regardless of what that business might be. When someone comes to you asking for your advice or your help, do you treat each person who does so equally?
Now I’m not talking about someone asking if you would help him or her rob a bank! Hopefully you don’t even know anyone of that sort!
No…I’m talking about the “I’ve got XYZ problem. What do you think I should do about it?” kind of situation where you can (and should) give your best, most helpfully relevant advice.
You probably won’t…and shouldn’t expect to…benefit from this action. You’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.