Answer: The standard of conduct that indicates how one should behave in any given situation. Question: What is ethics?
As the summer session of SPC 213 winds down, I think one concept consistently emerged in our conversations: ethics. Whether you are preparing to enter the public relations field or your career is taking you in a completely different direction, ethical behavior is a mainstay.
In Chapter 3, there was a quote from Jon Harris, SVP of global communications with Sara Lee that stated, “You are your reputation. Never go against your beliefs, ethics or morals. Trust is something that is easy to lose and almost impossible to gain back.” Wow! I remember sharing that same advice with my daughters as they were growing up! Like I said, ethical behavior is a mainstay; it never goes out of style.
One ethical dilemma for public relations professionals is something referred to as “pay for play.” You might remember reading about it in some of the chapters in your text. For a quick refresher, look in Chapter 3 on page 87 of your text as well as in Chapter 19 on page 504. Pay for play was also the topic of discussion in a recent post on Spin Sucks. In these readings and in our discussions over the past five weeks, you can see that few professionals are advocates for this practice. Falling into this trap puts your client’s reputation, your own reputation and the profession as a whole in jeopardy. There is no trust; there is no third-party credibility in your message if all it takes is a little – or a lot – of cash to get the message out. Think about it; why is it you seek advice from friends, family or even online reviews about a product versus just going with what the product advertisement tells you? Pay for play relegates your message to exactly that: a paid spot. If you have a story to tell and that story is worth hearing, it should go forward on its own merits. No payment is necessary.
Many organizations place a strong emphasis on ethical practices. Many require employees to complete an annual ethics training. SIUE requires such training. PRSA even created a mobile ethics app to give practitioners easy access to ethics resources. Think about the video you watched regarding social media use in the workplace. The freedom given to these employees is because of trust. Lose that, and like Harris said, “It’s almost impossible to gain back.”
I hope you have taken away some useful lessons during this fast-paced, five-week course, and I hope one is the importance of ethical behavior. No matter what career path you are on, success will be yours if you move forward with an honest, trustworthy and hard-working attitude. I wish you all much success as you move forward in your careers. For those returning to SIUE in the fall, I hope you will check out the SIUE Chapter of PRSSA. You can learn more about the Chapter and the benefits of membership by attending the fall social. Watch for more details on the Chapter’s Facebook page.
In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk.