Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Ethics Month!

It's time to bust out the cake, ice cream and crazy hats because September is officially Ethics Month. Well, at least for PRSA it is.

In this month's issue of Tactics there are a number of articles dedicated to ethics in the public relations industry. Ethics has always been a topic of interest to me, and I even took not one, but two media and communications ethics classes in college.

It seems that now, more than ever, PR practitioners are faced with a litany of ethical decisions, and it's time for those of us "budding public relations professionals" to be examples of ethical behavior in all we do, both professionally and personally.

In taking the aforementioned classes, I was exposed to many different books and articles regarding ethical issues. Much of the information I read, particularly in my Advanced Ethics class (yes, it really was called that), was based on the writings of philosophers, but I had a really hard time wrapping my mind around that. It seemed that some of these individuals took a simple topic like ethics and twisted it into a convoluted, abstract concept. I believe our personal ethics should come from within. Ethics, in my opinion, is a reflection of who we are. I'm not saying that someone can't gain some valuable insight from the writings of highly intelligent ethics experts such as Immanuel Kant or Sissela Bok, but for me ethics seems to be a simple matter.

I am not naïve enough to believe that making ethical decisions is an easy process, nor is it always black and white, but I do believe this process can be simplified by abiding by the moral compass within all of us. I also believe that everyone has an innate sense of right and wrong, but this sense can be refined and improved. Conversely, this sense can also be dulled through lapses in ethical judgment. One way I personally strive to improve my sense of right and wrong is through study of scripture and other religious texts. Outside of these texts, however, are three excellent books that have made a significant impact on my ethical behavior. They are as follows:

Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes, Gordon B. Hinckley

  • An excellent book by one of my heroes. This book inspires everyone to take a stand for what's right and to live a life of only the highest moral character. I simply cannot recommend it enough. I read this book for the first time in high school, and it was the first nonfiction book I'd ever read. I continue to consult it today.

Winners Never Cheat, Jon M. Huntsman

  • Jon Huntsman does a superb job of providing some insight on what it means to be an ethical person, and supports this through numerous business examples gained during his time in the corporate world.

There's No Such Thing as Business Ethics, John. C. Maxwell

  • Kudos to Maxwell (or perhaps more accurately, his publishing company) for a really great title. The basic premise of this book is that there is no such thing as business ethics, because ethics, as I've stated, is simply a matter of who you are. Ethics at work should be not be any different than ethics in one's personal life. This book is a really short read and can easily be finished in a day.

I love these books because of their down-to-earth, very practical information and application. These are my favorites. Are there any I should add to this list? I'm always looking for great books to add to my reading list, so recommend away.


Anonymous said...


I, too, believe that a simple approach should be taken toward personal and professional ethics.

From my viewpoint, there are two fundamental aspects to either personal or professional ethics. These are impact and basic integrity.

As individuals, our actions have an impact on those around us as well as society as a whole. One part of ethical behavior, in my opinion, involves seeking to maximize any positive impact which our behavior has upon others as well as upon broader society, and seeking to minimize any negative impact.

The second fundamental aspect of ethical behavior in my view involves basic integrity. It's about dealing with others in a way which is fair, honest and truthful.



Anonymous said...

Great post