Monday, October 17, 2016

Are Corporate Ethical Values an Oxymoron?

Andrea Wurm
October 17, 2016

"Don't work for the corporate world".

As I have furthered my education and path as an aspiring professional, this is the one piece of advice that has stuck with me. I've heard if from a spectrum that stretches from retired corporate giants to recent post graduates. With a desire to not knock anything until I experience it, I have taken their advice with a grain of salt.

After many ethics classes in the school of Journalism, are these wide array of professionals right?

The companies that are household names and are supposed to know us the best as consumers are these corporate institutions. We rely on them for our electric energy, our finances, and our news outlets. It's a sad truth that when stakeholders look for accountability, the first person we blame is whoever is at the top. As a society we should reconsider who we are quick to point fingers at.

The efforts between the CEO to be accountable for their employees and the employees to follow the culture that management creates is equal. In regards to the Public Relations Strategist article addressing the Robert Murdoch scandal, the employees under him have an obligation to create a reputable culture for the company, however, that means nothing unless Murdoch cultivates this.

If an employee does not match up with the ethical culture of the company, then they should be reconsidered. The PR executives have the responsibility to be the watch dogs of a company and make sure they are maintaining a reputable status, as well as remaining truthful and accountable.

While there should be a holistic effort in maintaining the reputation of a company, it is of the PR executive's utmost importance to do this. A company's true code of ethics is what their consumers and the general public see them as, not what the company says they are.

An interesting read in The Guardian, The 3 T's of a Great PR Experience, suggests that a successful PR professional knows that their operations are nothing without truth, trust, and transparency. Many are quick to separate the two fields of Journalism and Public Relations, but this is where the lines blend together. The most important dilemma in both fields is what we hear over and over again; the importance of accountability and transparency.

In "A New Era for Communication Values," Donald Kirchoffner, APR vice president of corporate communications for Exelon Business Services and Human Resources, insists "It's about getting to your employees first and doing it consistently." While it's the PR executive's job to maintain accountability, it is the company's job to not put the PR executive in an uncomfortable situation to cover up unethical practices.

Struggling to tell the truth in PR conveys the reality of this. Perhaps the employees and the heads of these companies need to do a better job being transparent so the PR executive can reveal this transparency in an honest light.

When I reconsider the comment that I should steer away from big corporate companies, I need to reevaluate that comment. As an aspiring professional and PR person, I should strive to work for a company with an ethical culture, whether that be a corporate institution or not.

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