Editor’s Note: To commemorate PRSA Ethics Month, PRSAY is running a month-long series of posts on important ethics issues facing the public relations profession. This is the fifth post in the series. An archive of ethics-related posts can be found here.
The role of ethics officer for a public relations firm is not for the faint of heart or those who eschew conflict. In most cases, not every fact will be present, and it is the job of a corporate ethics officer to determine fact from fiction and help the company mete out the most ethical solution that ensures the firm’s ethical standards are kept intact.
Let me clarify the term “officer,” which unfortunately connotes a notion of enforcement which is not what I do. I would much prefer the more accurate word of “counselor” or “advisor.”
As an ethics officer, I have one client: my firm. An ethics officer serves the company that employs him or her and that includes serving management as well as every single employee.
To be an effective ethics officer you need the full engagement and support of management. The tone and the example must come from the top. Management must be seen as “walking the talk” in action, not only in words.
In a firm like Ruder Finn, there are three different types of ethical issues we face: conflict of interests between clients; conflict of values between our clients and the firm; and issues of right versus wrong.