How does that joke go?
Oh, you hate your job? Join the club. It’s called “Everybody.” We meet at the bar on Thursdays.
At Vehr Communications, we’re lucky. Everyone here seems to like their jobs. We have a good boss (Hi, Nick! Great tie today, by the way, is it new?). We have great clients. And we have awesome coworkers.
Perhaps more than anything, our agency’s values, and the values of our clients, make us happy to come to work every day. We have absolutely no interest in unethical – or even slightly questionable – business practices.
I’m also happy to report that most professionals I know outside of Vehr Communications – including those not in the public relations field – feel similarly about unethical, or questionable, behavior.
Working for a company with questionable ethics would cause employee dissatisfaction more than anything else. In addition to broad unethical behavior that could occur in any industry (i.e. stealing money, deliberately selling mediocre products or services to clients, etc.), each trade has its own set of potentially questionable actions. Public relations is no different.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) established a Code of Ethics for its members to serve as a daily guide to ensure they are doing their jobs in the most honest and ethical ways possible. (To be completely transparent, I’m a member of PRSA and also serve on the board of the Cincinnati chapter. But regardless of my affiliation with the group, I think this is a valid resource for anybody in the public relations profession.)
I encourage you to read the PRSA Code of Ethics in its entirety. But I do want to point out two of the Code’s Provisions that I consider to be especially timely.
Free Flow of Information – “Protecting and advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information is essential to serving the public interest and contributing to informed decision making in a democratic society.”
Social media is the big thing now. And let’s be honest, it’s easy to post to a social media outlet. Almost too easy. So signing onto your employer’s social media page and disseminating information that is halfway (or not at all) truthful could be a huge temptation. It could also be tempting to ignore a consumer’s question/comment on your Facebook page that you don’t want to answer – even though you should. But we’re in this profession because we’re communicators. We are uniquely enabled to help society make informed decisions – and that obligation is greater than any business objective. Disrupting the free flow of information isn’t helping anyone – it could even, ultimately, hurt your company.
Conflicts of Interest – “Avoiding real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest builds the trust of clients, employers and the publics.”
Nothing ends well if someone has a conflict of interest so don’t even engage in something if this could potentially happen. If you have a financial interest in a competitor to a potential client or employer, do the right thing and don’t go after the business, apply for the job or work on that account. The public is very critical of people who knowingly have conflicts of interest in their professions (politics, anyone?). It’s not worth the risk to your own reputation – or that of your affiliations and employer – if you could potentially be hurting one entity to help another that you’re obligated to.
Do you abide by a code of ethics? Are you trying to abide by one but your employer has different plans? If you and your company have different standards of ethics, then you might want to consider “peacing out” so you have peace of mind.
That Thursday bar club is not worth its membership price.