An Obligation To Be Ethical

Though I have written and spoken quite a bit about ethics of late, I was proud to be recently asked by PRSA Detroit President Susan Ferraro to serve as a guest writer for her President’s column in the May 2011 “Bulletin.”  I’d like to share an excerpt of that with you here:

How we conduct ourselves – with colleagues, clients, the media and community at large – defines us.

So, how do we treat and interact with the audiences mentioned above? Do we operate with honesty, integrity and transparency? At Tanner Friedman we are staunch proponents of teamwork, professionalism and empowerment, all put forth on our website in “What We Stand For.” Matt and I wrote this along with our Mission Statement before doing anything else when forming our company nearly five years ago.

With colleagues, do we give credit where credit is due or do we throw them under the bus? Do we support our employees’ career paths with direction and open dialogue or do we attempt to keep them “in a box” and controlled? When a client issue arises, do we provide internal support and problem-solving counsel to our team members or do we instead try to assign blame in deference to the paying client?

Regarding clients, do we truly provide strategic counsel or just tell the customer what he wants to hear, even if it is not in his best interest? Are we totally transparent when it comes to dynamics related to retainer vs. project vs. hourly fees, and team member transition and conflicts? We’ll never take on a competing client, yet others have been known to do this as well as pad hours and, as such, outright lie. Unethical approaches all.

And, where media are concerned, what would you say is the most important dynamic of interacting with them? Securing placements for our clients? I would argue that, rather, it is about building and maintaining trust through professional interaction; respect for the in-basket (making sure what we are pitching is truly newsworthy) and using print, broadcast and online media appropriately and with integrity. Telling an assignment desk editor, for example, that he should send out a crew to an event because there are “hundreds of people on site” when there are not is the total opposite. A similar ethical approach to social media is paramount.

Ethics are about choices. They are a reflection of who we are. Each one of us has an obligation – to co-workers, our clients, our collaborators and our industry – to operate honestly and ethically. It is the only way to advance our profession and truly experience a rewarding, purposeful career.