Ethics, Trust, and the Bottom Line

September is Ethics month for PRSA, but ethics is something that should be on the minds of PR professionals everyday. On September 19, WMPRSA members gathered to learn from Karen Swim, President and CEO of Words For Hire and President of Solo PR Pro, about ethics in both professional and personal lives.

What is Ethics?

We all know what ethics are, but Swim broke down the definition into applicable terms: a moral philosophy that requires people to differentiate between right and wrong. It may not always be black and white, but it’s important to always define what is valuable.

After discussing using the value system of your organization as a driving factor to how you see what is right or wrong, Swim unpacked the importance of ethics.

The Impact of Ethics

You hear about ethics all the time, but when was the last time you asked yourself why ethics matter? Swim reminded us that as PR professionals, we are the safeguards of the organizations we serve and their publics. It’s our duty to be honest in order to make it easier for people to trust us; when consumers trust us, they give us their money. In fact, 93% of customers are more likely to recommend brands they trust.

Unfortunately, there are two contributing factors to the lack of trust from the public: fake news and ethics. Swim told us that not only does fake news affect how people trust the government, but it also impacts their confidence in other Americans. It is crucial to make a distinction between advocacy and news reporting to help regain trust.

A recent study by the Gallup poll revealed that when people were asked to rate their trust among different industries, public relations ranked 22 out of 25 industries. With data discrepancies like the Facebook problem, people are feeling like they can’t trust companies or their friends. But by rebuilding trust, we can change the public’s perception.

How to Rebuild Trust

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you trust, what matters is who trusts you. So how can we rebuild trust? By practicing ethics everyday and making it part of your day to day life.

Swim asked, “Would you trust a firefighter who sets fires outside of work?” Of course not.

To become an ethical person, you must practice ethics inside and outside of the office, and not just during the month of September. Here is how you can do just that:

  1. Practice ethics everyday

  2. Create an ethical framework

  3. Anticipate the “what if’s”

  4. Be prepared when ethical challenges are flagged

  5. Create an ethical culture

By following these 5 steps, you can get ahead of problems and be prepared when ethical challenges arise. And keep in mind Swim’s final pieces of advice: stand up for ethics. If you see unethical behavior let people know. Even if it means going against an organization you serve.

See the full presentation below:

Recap by Delaney MacKenzie: Delaney MacKenzie is a senior at Grand Valley State University majoring in Advertising and Public Relations. This year she is proudly serving GV PRSSA as the Chapter President. Delaney is also pursuing an internship at RED 66 Marketing as a Marketing Associate and working at TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants as a Social Media & Marketing Coordinator.