Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What is your reputation worth? (#PRethics)

What is your reputation worth? It’s worth protecting if you expect to flourish in the field of public relations.

Yes, it’s your reputation at risk, always, on the job or not. Some of the most serious hazards are on the job.

Check out the values of the organization or client who is paying for your public relations efforts. You are not the conscience of top management, including its Board. You can’t be if management has no conscience.

If you are asked to do something that conflicts with your own personal code of ethics, your own values, you have three choices.
The first is to talk about the risks to the organization if it is taking, or plans to take, a wrong turn. If personal, professional counsel fails, you can turn to PRSA’s code for behavior for its members and simply say the plans are putting your career in jeopardy. When that doesn’t work, you can quit. I’ve done it. Only once. I had four small children, a husband out of work and was in a similar economic climate to what we are experiencing now. It worked. I was coaxed back, and listened to thereafter.

If you don’t do this, you hurt yourself and the practice of PR.

Once when teaching at TCU, I had the idea of asking a philosophy professor who taught ethics to teach a class for us. When I asked him, his first response was, “I didn’t know PR people had any ethics.” You are still up against that perception. Now it’s called “spin.”
Guest post by Dr. Doug Newsom, APR, Fellow PRSA, Professor Emerita Texas Christian University, for PRSA September Ethics Month.

Photo credit: nylffn via Flickr Creative Commons
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