Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Sixth Annual Grunig Lecture held at the University of Maryland. As a student, it was a privilege to interact with the top representatives of the public relations industry. It opened my eyes to the different areas I could explore within public relations. In addition to having great discussions with PR professionals, I and 350 other attendees listened as CEO of FleishmanHillard Dave Senay spoke on Ethics as Culture, a project the company is currently involved in which focuses on making ethics a priority in public relations. His presentation of the project was exceptional; I want to share three key takeaways that I received from it.
Takeaway #1 – Making ethical decisions is not a “nice to have” but a “must do.”
Senay shared several examples of PR gone wrong when ethics were not considered a priority in the organization’s dealings. He continued to explain the importance of this advice by presenting several examples of PR practitioners and clients suffering grave consequences for not conducting business ethically.
Takeaway #2 – Good ethics are rooted in character, not training.
There exists an instinctive temptation to attempt to remedy ethical issues in an organization through training and further education. However, according to Senay, ethical behavior is rooted in character, a passion for being a respectable person to others.
Takeaway #3 – For it to work, ethics must be an integral part of the entire organization’s mission, not just its PR.
For some organizations, PR functions as a department within the company and nothing more. However, Senay advises that a company should purpose to exhibit proper ethical PR practices in all its aspects, not just the traditional PR practices.
I think Senay raised the issue of ethics as an important topic for young PR professionals to be aware of regarding the industry and its functions. I feel much more prepared to be successful as an ethically minded PR practitioner now after learning from him and those at the Grunig Lecture.