Ethics in Public Relations

Last week Monday, I was in Amsterdam for the anniversary event of the EACD, the European Association of Communication Directors, and like always we had a debate.

This year the debate was around Ethics.

I was amazed right from the start when the moderator asked the panel members if this session on Ethics should be under the "Chatham House Rule"...

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

Most people agreed on the panel and when the question was asked to the public there was a mixed response.

Personally I was completely against the fact and answered, “No I will Tweet this discussion because it’s important.”

Ethics should be an open discussion and when you are discussing ethics as a Communications professional you simply stand behind every word you say on that topic.

Some interesting things came up but the definition itself of the topic as such was a bit confused...  What were we talking about ? Ethics in our profession ? Ethical business behavior ?

Now, at one point, I think the discussion was much more about business conduct guidelines like you have in every major organization and less about the real ethical values that we, as public relations professionals, should comply with.

I made the statement that our public relations profession has had ethical guidelines for a very long time. When I was studying in PR school (and that is a very long time ago) we discussed and agreed to follow the Code of Athens. (opens a PDF)

There has always been a discussion around Ethics in our profession, it is not a really a new theme.

The only thing which I think is missing is an agreement on how we should integrate and enforce Ethics. I do think that is an important part of the whole discussion.

If we do not have the means to enforce a code of Ethics then it is not really something that we can use efficiently in our industry. 

And, we "owe" it to the "public" as well... Communications moves at hyper speed, there is the impact of social media on our profession and the issue of "trust" around the globe. People really want to be able to find correct information and receive authentic transparent communications...

Like one person said during the panel debate; if we do not integrate Ethics and rules into our profession, these rules will be imposed upon us by others soon...

What do you think ?