Life is filled with ethical choices. Cheating on exams, lying to coworkers and misrepresenting ourselves to potential employers are all examples of unethical choices. Public Relations is filled with decisions that have ethical considerations. How do you handle ethical concerns? How do you determine what is ethical and what is not?
5 thoughts on “Ethical Decisions”
I think the key to ethics is practicing personal governance. Governance in the corporate world is usually handled in the board room. Be your own board! Be discerning, conscious of ethical issues and focus on the means as well as the end.
I try to handle ethical concerns by analyzing the details of the situation, because usually in the details in the problem you will find the solution. And in the end, governance in companies only wants to highlight significant issues to advance that company’s mission. If an action doesn’t ethically advance your personal mission and objectives, don’t bother.
I think having the PRSA Code of Ethics as a foundation is great, but personal conviction to honesty and truth is most important. I know I sound like a DARE instructor, but decide in advance to “just say no.”
Prof. Susan Walton, APR, has told her classes over and over that the most difficult ethical decisions she’s ever had to make in corporate PR have been on her own in her office late at night–not those “big” ones you always read about in case studies where the boss is asking you to lie or something. If your personal convictions are strong, you will be able to make the best choice and feel comfortable about it down the road.
A good general rule of thumb when it comes to making decisions is how would you feel if your actions were on the front page of The New York Times? If it’s not going to be something you’re comfortable with, chances are you aren’t acting appropriately. Ethics is important and I hope PRSA/PRSSA continue to push for an ethical membership.
I think ethics say a lot about a person. In a way ethics define who you are, what’s important to you and ultimately how you live your life. In today’s world the value of ethics are challenged on a daily basis. I think it takes a strong person to stand up for what they believe in, even if you are standing alone. Yes, sometimes you may falter and you might not become the most popular person in the crowd, but that’s not what PR is all about. PR practitioner should pride themselves on doing what is decent, ethical and right no matter what the final outcome. In the long run you come out looking a lot more intelligent and decent among your peers and employers. Sometimes setting yourself apart in that sense is the best way to get ahead. When your faced with an ethical dilemma, take it back to your roots. You might be surprised how easy making that hard decision becomes.
Our discipline is grounded in ethics. We are the guardians of organizational reputation. We are the canaries in the coal mine who first detect the slightest hint of damage and move to snuff it out, inside or outside the organization.