July 31, 2014

It’s vital that we don’t cut corners when it comes to ethics

– By Eamonn Moore.

There’s a great history of public figures being caught making unguarded comments by the press and media, but such cases appear to be rife this spring/summer.

First there was Bigotgate. Then there was Snookergate. Then Lord Triesman was shown the red card after apparently making some unguarded comments about Spain and Russia bribing officials at this summer’s World Cup. And now Sarah Ferguson has been caught allegedly offering to sell access to her ex husband Prince Andrew. What’s next?

In my previous blog post, I looked at how Gordon Brown’s PR should be handled post-Bigotgate, but did not tackle the ethics of the situation – something that I now feel I should address, especially after the thought provoking discussion on ethics in this week’s #CommsChat.

The whole issue of ethics and the media has always been and will always be a hot potato. Do we have a right to know everything that public figures say (even if it’s said ‘behind closed doors’) or is everyone entitled to their privacy? Should we perhaps only be alerted to conversations that are of genuine national interest, and if so, what constitutes ‘national interest’?

Personally, I feel that there are circumstances when it is genuinely important that the contents of a private conversation are aired – Watergate perhaps being the best example of this. However, in cases such as the one involving Lord Triesman, the desire to have a sensationalist headline (and increased sales) seem to have been received by some as a neglect of ethical standards by the newspaper in question. Whether his allegations are correct or not, you could argue that Lord Triesman has a strong case to say that he has been the victim of entrapment. Furthermore, surely potentially irreversibly damaging England’s 2018 World Cup bid is not in the ‘national interest’? Gary Lineker certainly didn’t think it was.

Working in public relations, I am acutely aware of the importance of ethical and responsible media reporting. We rely on the media to do our jobs, and they rely on us, so I see it as our duty to help uphold, support and encourage the highest ethical standards. Indeed, if the media fall short of such standards, it often impacts on the world of public relations (and vice versa).

Various recent public mudslinging matches between PRs & PRs, and PRs & the media have shown us that it cuts both ways. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being critical of something (or someone), provided that you go about it in a considered manner, choosing to value ethics over link-bait opportunities, and always aiming to offer constructive criticism by suggesting possible areas of improvement, rather than just celebrating perceived misfortune. It seems to me that events of late have left the PR world feeling somewhat tarnished.

The world of communication is developing apace along with technology, but if we’re not careful, we risk losing sight of the basics, especially when it comes to ethics. As PRs, it is our duty to both protect and enhance our industry’s reputation from within by being positively and proactively ethical at all times (even when we’re being critical of something). If we don’t fulfil this duty, the whole industry’s reputation could well be left in tatters, and none of us want that, do we?

The launch of #CommsChat on Twitter – fancy it?

#CommsChat, a weekly Twitter-based chat about anything and everything to do with communications, is inspired by chats like #JournChat, #PRstudchat and #BlogChat, which focus on specific subjects / participants.

These chats are typically based / moderated out of the USA, which means that the times are often challenging for people based in Europe.

#CommsChat has been developed with these things in mind, and will hopefully be shaped even more by you after reading this post.

The top line framework of #CommsChat

  • A weekly chat on Monday nights at 8pm UK time (1 hour duration)
  • Wide-ranging topics connected to communications, including: traditional and social media, PR, blogging, marketing, journalism and lots more
  • Special guests will be invited to take part most weeks based on the subject matter

Help shape #CommsChat

The rest of #CommsChat and its make-up will be determined by you over the next few weeks.

  • What would you like to see?
  • Any thoughts on subjects / topics?
  • Is there a format from another chat you’ve taken part in that you really like?

All this feedback will help us collectively create an engaged community and host sessions that add value to everyone taking part.

Put a date in your diary

The first #CommsChat is scheduled for 24 May 2010 at 8pm (UK time).

Although based out of the UK, it is open to anyone from everywhere – comms professionals, bloggers, journalists, students – basically anyone with an interest in / passion for communications.

Over the next few weeks we’ll provide you with more information about how it will work.

But the primary objective is simple: encourage like-minded people to get together for an hour each week to share their tips, hints and lessons relating to the world of communications.

It should be a lot of fun…and we look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Thanks

Adam Vincenzini and Emily Cagle

Staying connected / useful links:

Using your green credentials

Colleen Smith from eFIG (The European Federation of Interior Landscape Groups) guest blogs for us this week and plants the ultimate environmental message.

We are all encouraged to be ‘greener’ and we all know some of the simplest steps, from switching off lights or turning the heating down. But being green isn’t just about reducing waste, it’s about actively contributing to a healthier environment.

As a business, one way to start your greening process is to bring in some plants. Such an investment is about more than just flashing your green credentials. Plants clean the air and refresh it with oxygen, turning your office into a more positive environment for staff and visiting clients alike. What’s more, plants can help to keep us calm and improve our concentration and productivity.

Whilst cleaning the air, they mop up the cocktail of toxins which are emitted into the air by everyday products from paper goods to electrical products which often can’t escape at work especially if there is no natural ventilation. Interior planting can noticeably reduce levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the indoor air as well as other toxins some of which are known to be carcinogenic.

Whilst it’s not as simple as to say they can help reduce your carbon footprint – the calculations are more complex – plants certainly say you care about your staff and the environment they work in.