Ethics, every day (and a special appeal to millennials)

While this month marks PRSA Ethics Month, every day of the year is a good day to remember ethics in our day-to-day business practices.  I was reminded of this last week when I spoke to students at IUPUI. We discussed several current-day examples of ethical issues playing out in the news media.

In course of those conversations, we spent a lot of time wondering whether the public relations team knew what was really going on in the company and, if so, how much they knew. Whether it’s a large sandwich franchise whose spokesperson is “involved” with teenagers, or a financial services institution taking money from unknowing customers to pad their commissions, public relations professionals have an obligation – a duty – to know what’s going on in a company. That said, if a PR professional doesn’t have a seat at the table (and even then), he or she can’t be a reliable reputation alarm for a company.

We also discussed the challenges inherent in being the reputation alarm. Companies with integrity will hopefully view your concerning signal as positive. Other companies may discredit you. You could even lose your job. Working alongside peers who demonstrate high integrity makes a PR professional’s work a lot easier. When faced with the unenviable task of bringing a reputational issue to the forefront, whether to your senior leadership or to an Ethics Officer, you will feel more comfortable that the company will do the right thing. That’s why it’s vital to research a prospective employer’s culture when you interview for a new job.

Increasingly, our professional wants to know how well we are teaching our younger professionals about ethics. If you are a young professional, you can support ethics research by taking the Millennials Ethics Survey, administered by Baylor University and sponsored by the PRSA Board of Ethics and the Arthur W. Page Center. For 15-20 minutes of your time, you can opt-in to win one of four $100 gift cards. Take the survey by visiting:

Also, don’t miss our January luncheon, where Jeff Marr from Walker will explore the ethical dangers behind the collection and interpretation of research. Look for more information on this in the coming months!

myraMyra Cocca is a 25-year member of our Hoosier Chapter and is Ethics Chair. She is founding principal of IronStrike, which helps executives, companies and organizations navigate change through effective employee and leadership communications.

Connect with Myra Cocca.