All through this month of September, PR and communications professionals around the world will set aside a bit of time to renew their understanding of and commitment to the highest standards of ethical conduct throughout the year.
It’s all part of a '#POWERofETHICS' push by ICCO, the global body convening more than 40 national and other PR organisations to place ethics at the centre of their agendas. Consultancies, agencies, and independent advisors worldwide will take part in workshops, training courses, and online forums to ensure our work continues to adhere to local and international ethical frameworks.
It comes not a moment too soon.
By far the majority of practitioners recognise the professional need to deliver advice and service that is both useful and ethical. But the world to continues to change, blurring lines that were once clear and pushing boundaries that were once fixed. It’s a good moment to re-examine concepts like transparency, privacy, and disclosure as the connections shift between who is communicating with whom, who is paying for it, and for what purpose.
And let’s be honest: there is more opportunity than ever for our expertise and craft to be misused by a few and misunderstood by just about everyone else. Virtually every issue on the global stage today is now seen as a “PR battle” with multiple sides battling for attention and influence in the anarchic arena - no longer a stately court - of public opinion. These confrontations, characterised by hacking and leaks, alternative facts and fake news, bots and trolls, rarely reflect well on us as professionals.
In the future, next year perhaps, I hope at least one of the myriad PR conferences we shuttle around to will look at these developments seriously. PR, for better or worse, or both, is now at the very heart of the debate raging around our most crucial social foundations - democracy, trade, health, justice, and education, among others. These deserve a proper forum for us to examine our roles and responsibilities.
For now, the #POWERofETHICS effort and all of the many supporting activities are a good step in the right direction, and I hope colleagues around the world will give them full support in their own communities and practice.