Dear PRSA-NCC members:
My love for PR extends beyond writing and communicating about my clients to include situations where I get to provide counsel to executives and work through ethical situations. When I had the opportunity to guest lecture for a PR class at Marymount University a few weeks ago, a student asked me what I look for in a future employee. I talked about being a strategic thinker and having good ethics. She followed up with, “How would you ask someone in an interview, so you can understand their ethics?”
I loved her question and posed the following scenario to see how she and her fellow classmates would respond. As a new PR professional, someone may not understand the full PRSA code of ethics, but it gave me an opportunity to see how an individual may think through it.
Here is the scenario: You are a staff member of an organization, and one of your 65 exhibitors develops a game to engage attendees at your organizations upcoming conference. In advance of the conference, the exhibitor sends a copy of the game to the top influencers in the market, including you and other staff members. The exhibitor wants you to participate and encourage others to visit the booth. How would you handle the situation?
After mulling it over, one of the 14 students in attendance responded, “I wouldn’t participate because that would give the exhibitor an unfair advantage over the others.” The other students thought about it and agreed. I told her that’s exactly why you shouldn’t participate as a staff member. If you weren’t part of the organization putting on the conference, then you must decide whether to participate.
When I found myself in this situation, that’s exact reason why I chose not to participate. I didn’t want to show any favoritism toward one company. Plus, my organization has rules that staff can’t accept, or participate in, any giveaways from our exhibitors.
Ethics has been a hot topic not only in our industry, but sports, entertainment, politics, and broadcasting to name a few. It’s critical for all communicators to understand and practice ethics daily because our brand and personal reputation depends on it.