More Thoughts on Ethics and PR Pop Quiz Deconstructed

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Don’t you wish all exams were this easy?

Well, hopefully, those who took last week’s quiz on ethics in public relations found my three questions to be within their grasp.  But before we get to the an analysis of the quiz, two thoughts on ethics.

Ethics_signTechnology — The Great Equalizer and Enabler

The ability to tweet, broadcast, post and publish in real time makes it easy and convenient to call out situations where ethics are breached. That goes for lapses in ethical standards in the public relations profession, as well as in just about every other industry. That’s good.

But from another perspective, the ability for anyone to tweet, broadcast, post and publish could create and certainly exacerbate situations where ethics are compromised.  The take away: An effective public relations program — including an up-to-date crisis communications plan — is essential to mitigate damage resulting from a breach of ethics.

Who’s in Charge of Managing Ethics?

The modern workplace is a much, much different place than it was not too long ago.  In the past, alleged ethics violations more than likely were handled by the boss or management team.  Today, some companies have employed an ethics officer, a senior staff person who becomes “the organization’s internal control point for ethics and improprieties allegations complaints and conflicts of interest,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Conglomerates and publicly-traded entities can afford to pay — and certainly need — staff dedicated to ethics. But what about smaller businesses, local governments, start-up firms? Are there people with the right skill set who can “freelance” ethical counsel?

Now, back to last week’s questions:

1.  You’re the account manager for a new client landed by your agency.  During the first face-to-face meeting with the client, you want t0 capture everything that’s discussed; so you record the conversation — but don’t tell the client or your colleagues.

Is this a breach of PRSA ethics?  If so, which provision?

Answer: Yes, of course it is!  This surreptitious action violates open disclosure of information by being a deceptive practice.

2.  ABC Amalgamated is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  As the director of communications, one of your responsibilities is to order logo merchandise for use at anniversary events.  Your old friend, a fraternity brother, owns a promotional products company in town.  The friend offers your company a discount to get the order. You ask your superior if you could do business with your friend.

Are you violating any ethical standards?  If so, which one?

Answer: No. As long as the boss is aware of your relationship with the vendor, there’s nothing wrong with this type of transaction. There would be an issue if you got a kick back or gift.

3.  As head of business development, you’re asked by agency leaders to complete a new business RFP.  The prospective client is a manufacturer of an agricultural product that is under investigation by the EPA for being unsafe.  Before the RFP is due, you learn though a source at the EPA that the product will be approved.

Answer:  This is a tough one, but I say “yes.”  The way the information constitutes a potential conflict of interest and stifles open competition.

As this post is published, there’s just a few hours left in the month of September, PRSA Ethics Month.  Did you have to cope with any ethical challenges recently?

Think You Got a Grasp on PR Ethics? Take This Pop Quiz

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Just like a structure is built upon a foundation, the practice of public relations is built upon a foundation, too.

It’s called ethics.

And, anyone who purports to provide public relations counsel should have a solid grasp of established ethical standards and guidelines.  What’s more, serious PR professionals should identify and call out those who violate the rules.

After all, without adherence to sound ethical principles, public relations devolves into hucksterism, or worse, propaganda.

PRSA_RGB_234781_altSo, how well do you know what’s within the boundaries of ethics in public relations today?  In recognition of PRSA Ethics Month, spend a few minutes taking this pop quiz courtesy of the PRDude.

I’ll provide the answers later. Or write a comment and share your thoughts.

If you need a refresher, read the current PRSA State of Professional Values and Provisions of Conduct.

And, for the record: I am a member of the Public Relations Society of America and a member of the Board of Directors of PRSA Chicago.  (What Provision does this statement fall under?)

1.  You’re the account manager for a new client landed by your agency.  During the first face-to-face meeting with the client, you want t0 capture everything that’s discussed; so you record the conversation — but don’t tell the client or your colleagues.

Is this a breach of ethics?  If so, which provision?

2.  ABC Amalgamated is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  As the director of communications, one of your responsibilities is to order logo merchandise for use at anniversary events.  Your old friend, a fraternity brother, owns a promotional products company in town.  The friend offers your company a discount to get the order. You ask your superior if you could do business with your friend.

Are you violating any ethical standards?  If so, which one?

3.  As head of business development, you’re asked by agency leaders to complete a new business RFP.  The prospective client is a manufacturer of an agricultural product that is under investigation by the EPA for being unsafe.  Before the RFP is due, you learn though a source at the EPA that the product will be approved.

Does the PRSA provision of safeguarding confidences apply here?

These should be fairly easy for most of us in the industry, and it should be noted I figuratively pulled these scenarios out of thin air.

Want some more challenging ethics-themed questions? Take this challenging test prepared earlier this year by the Detroit PRSA Chapter.  And, another full disclosure: I didn’t get all 10 questions correct.

Want more on ethics?

Read this post from earlier this year on the question of ethics involving generations.

 

 

 

Visiting Vigorous, Vivacious Vancouver, BC, Part 2

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)\

Last month’s “travelogue” post of Vancouver, a gem of a city in British Columbia, Canada, demonstrated in photos and captions just what an awesome, modern metropolis evolved from what was a logging outpost and the western terminal of the Canadian transcontinental railroad.

Here, I’ll share three short observations gained from our eight days exploring the city, its waterfront areas and neighborhoods.

Vancouver even has alley ways -- but with a view of mountains.

Vancouver even has alley ways — but with a view of mountains, of course.

1. Respect for the Environment. From just about every corner in Vancouver, one is treated to a view of something pleasurable. Whether it was the mountains to the north, the water along Burrard Inlet or False Creek or even the so-called “built environment” developed by man, we were enamored just looking around.

And, the forested masterpiece — Stanley Park — even maintained its grandeur with a the four-lane Causeway running through it.  What’s more, people had great respect for their surroundings: We saw very little litter and very little graffiti. As for crime: We saw none, read about none or experienced none.

Some of the First Nation totems in Stanley Park.

Some of the First Nation totems in Stanley Park.

2. Diversity Works. Yes, Vancouver has the obligatory Chinatown, but it’s adjacent to a kind of  “skid row” and there’s not a lot to see.  To get a flavor of just how diverse the city has become, visit, the neighborhoods like West End and Kitsilano.

Everywhere we found people, businesses and restaurants of all kinds — all living and working in apparent harmony.  Along Davie Street in the heart of the LGBT community, the crosswalk pavement markers at Bute Steet were in a rainbow pattern.  And, Native Americans or descendants of the First Nation are remembered and respected.

3. What’s Left of Vancouver’s Architectural History?  In researching Vancouver, I learned the city was destroyed by a fire in 1886, just a few years after fire destroyed much of my home city of Chicago.  And, like the people of Chicago, the citizens of Vancouver rebuilt a new, better, more modern city.

Our way cool modern apartment was at The Lions, a twin tower complex in Coal Harbour.

Our way cool modern apartment was at The Lions, a twin tower complex in Coal Harbour.

But strolling through the Coal Harbour and West End neighborhoods, there was little left of traditional neighborhoods of single family homes.  Our wonderful apartment, in a tower 30 stories tall, more than likely replaced several much more modern structures. This Facebook site  — ” a lament for, and celebration of, the vanishing character homes in Vancouver” — even chronicles homes leveled to build more dense properties.

Perhaps the ideal weather — 80s by day with lots of sun — just added to our enjoyment of Vancouver.  But we think the city would have made lasting memories even if it rained much of the time.

The week after we returned to Chicago, it did.