by Roger Pynn
Making a presentation on ethics in public relations last week to the Pensacola Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association, we got into a healthy discussion of what to do when your employer or client simply doesn’t see an ethical dilemma and puts you in a compromising situation.
One very bright young woman who holds an important job said “I always want to do the right thing, but I’m young and I can’t afford to lose my job.”
“Au contraire,” I said, “you can’t afford to lose your reputation. If you are ever compromised you have to be willing to give it up or be fired, and I promise you that you will become a hot property to the kind of employers you want to work for.”
I like to talk about the moral simplicity of ethical behavior because as ethicists over the ages have said, ethical behavior is about the constructs of character. We intuitively know what is right or wrong and take the right action, seek the advice of others when we are unsure or we don’t sweat the “small stuff,” and do whatever it takes to please the person who could fire us.
At the end of the talk, I gave each member of the chapter a small envelope emblazoned with the words “Public Relations Ethics Toolkit.” It contained a couple of reference tools for use when facing an ethical dilemma:
- A copy of the Code of Ethics of the Florida Public Relations Association; and,
- A pocket mirror … because most of us can just look in the mirror and know right from wrong instantly.
Hopefully, when they look in the mirror the next day they’ll like what they see.