The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management, representing 160,000 practitioners and academics across the world, is offering its leadership to start a global conversation with a view to launching a new code of ethics in April 2018.
A shiny new code of ethics is all well and good but I am not sure it is the code itself we need to be worrying about. The challenge is giving the code some true meaning, backbone and rigour. Reporting and charging offenders, implementing consequences for bad practice, naming and shaming. Otherwise, people will keep doing it.
The current CIPR and PRCA codes are both very much fit for purpose – covering honesty, integrity, transparency, duty of care etc. But while the PRCA flexed its muscles over the Bell Pottinger case, we need more discipline! And we need the CIPR to show leadership too.
My second issue is that shouldn’t we all be doing more to promote and uphold good practice anyway?
CIPR Midlands held a really interesting Moral Maze event this month, whereby three scenarios were debated. One – which I rather uncomfortably had to defend – was that a comms director should potentially keep quiet about suspected child abuse. Nobody, thankfully, believed this to acceptable.
However, the question of whether PR practitioners should, if requested by a client, put out made up content was not quite so clear cut – which is somewhat scary given the current fake news agenda.
There are lots of bad PR practices that have hopefully stopped/nearly stopped. Not paying interns. Fake restaurant/venue reviews. AVEs. Discrimination of any kind.
But we can all do more. And where does it stop, if we are pushing clients’ environmental credentials – don’t we need to be recycling, properly, restricting our use of single use plastics, etc.?
I am embarrassed to recall PR in the eighties, when ethics were much lower down the agenda – so it is great to see that massive amounts of progress have been made. But as my millennial children quite rightly point out, I can do more – and I am not alone in this.