Don’t Cry Wolf join ICCO House of PR in Cannes

Don’t Cry Wolf have become the first ever start up agency to be a platinum sponsor of ICCO’s House of PR at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. They join WE Communications and FlieshmanHillard as the first three to confirm for the 2019 festival.

Francis Ingham, Chief Executive, ICCO said

“For the past five years, the ICCO House of PR has offered PR pros at Cannes a base to come together and exchange ideas on creativity. Previously, it’s only been global agencies that have been present here -so it’s fantastic to welcome the presence of our first-ever start up agency official sponsor. Don-t Cry Wolf -a true leader of the pack.”

John Brown, Founder and CEO, Don’t Cry Wolf has said

“It’s not just about the rosé!”

“We’ve got something to share about how creativity can, and should, be nurtured with social good in mind. Also, we want to discuss how a creative agency can be run with a net positive impact on the environment and society.

So, we’ll be curating a day at Cannes Lions where Don’t Cry Wolf and some of our B Corp buddies, both agency and brand side, will be taking the stage to talk about creating campaigns with an eye on improving society. We’ll also explore purpose washing and how organisations have to change their setup first before they start banging on about positive outcomes.”

ICCO will be rallying the industry once again at our Cannes Uncovered event on 30th January to preview changes to Cannes in 2019 and provide some expert advice for judges to ensure PR winners across the board in June. Details here.

The House of PR is the independent hub for PR professionals at Cannes Lions to meet, work, relax, learn, and have fun. Attracting the biggest names in PR throughout the week, it’s also a perfect cost-effective way to host your own events, workshops, seminars, drinks receptions, or showcase work and technology in the heart of the festival.
This year we have a space that is five times bigger, allowing for larger events, displays, and workshops. ICCO is an official sponsor of Cannes Lions giving the House of PR sponsors exposure, credibility, and a direct connection with the competition.

For more information of the ICCO House of PR at Cannes Lions 2019 contact

ICCO Summit: ‘Agencies Must Expand Swim Lanes’ Says Ketchum’s Barri Rafferty

Maja Pawinska Sims, Editor, The Holmes Report

For the original article on The Holmes Report, click here.

Ketchum global CEO Barri Rafferty told delegates that PR agencies have a golden opportunity to reinvent themselves.

DUBLIN — Agencies have a golden opportunity to “expand our swim lane”, according to Ketchum global CEO Barri Rafferty, speaking at the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) Global Summit.

She told delegates: “Sometimes we’ve narrowly defined our discipline and thus the world around us has too. We need to really think about what we want to stand for as PR agencies, how we want to redefine what a communications consultancy is, and how we become a bigger part of the business model to drive brand awareness, reputation and sales.”

One key way in which agencies could reinvent themselves was through better business acumen, she said: “We not only want to help clients through organisational change, we also want to create opportunities to grow our own business.”

Creative diversity was also another area that Rafferty mooted as being ripe for improvement: “We surround ourselves with too many people who think alike, and it creates a creative echo chamber. Are we bringing enough different types of people, from different backgrounds, around the table to create different types of creativity?”

A third way in which agencies could seize the advantage was through understanding brands’ shifts from “marketing to sell, to marketing to serve.” Commenting on Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad – the most referenced image of the entire conference – Rafferty said: “Nike actually took no risk with the ad: they totally understand their target audience. They played to their young core, to black Americans, who they know will support their brand, and sales went up 31% in week one.

“Brands like Nike have been authentic in how they serve and stand up for their core market. More and more brands are taking a stance on political and social issues, so we need to do the research and analytics to make sure we really understand that brand’s consumer.”

Finally, Rafferty said PR professionals could expand their remit by acting as clients’ conscience: “Leaders today have more visible personas than ever before and our expectation of them is higher than before. We’ve seen CEOs hurt their reputation. We have to help guide and fix, but a lot of CEOs are role models for change and use their positions for the greater good. We can be their conscience.”

ICCO Summit: ‘PR Will Get Its Swagger Back’

Maja Pawinska Sims, Editor, The Holmes Report

For the original article in The Holmes Report, click here.

Demand for credible, verifiable branded content will rocket; pressure on holding groups will continue, says WE international president Alan VanderMolen.

DUBLIN — Public relations will “get its swagger back” in 2019, according to WE Communications president, international Alan VanderMolen.

Outlining his predictions for the industry in the year ahead at the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) Global Summit in Dublin, VanderMolen said: ““PR will get its swagger back as demand for engagement, and credible, verifiable branded content sky rockets. It’s been a tough few years but if we focus on demand for engagement over earned media, we have an issues-rich and opportunity-rich environment.”

VanderMolen quoted some of the findings from WE’s recent Brands In Motion research, showing that while consumers expect and demand technological innovation, they are also increasingly fearful of the potential for technology to have a negative impact, from data security to driverless cars.

He said: “Consumers are now holding brands responsible for ethical use of technology, and it’s a brilliant opportunity for PR to get back in the boardroom.”

Outlining the challenge for PR professionals, VanderMolen said: “We must understand the technologies and platforms that are shaping our business environment. We must re-emerge as the moral and ethical voice guiding brands on what they should do rather than what they can do. We must regain the ground in the c-suite that has been ceded to CMOs, CTOs and legal counsel. And we must master insights and analytics to maintain credibility.”

Another prediction for 2019 was more consolidation within the marketing holding groups: “With the exception of Publicis, which has Sapient, holding companies aren’t equipped to have management and performance consultancy conversations.

“Budgets are being slashed, outpacing holding companies’ ability to invest in technology like the management consultancies have, and the management consultancies are back-integrating by buying creative shops. Consolidation is real and it’s creating real pressure for the holding companies, but it will also create an opportunity for mid-size agencies to get hold of talent.”

It’s all about talent and purpose. Takeaways from the ICCO Global Summit 2018

Originally written by Lindsay Paterson, Leadership coach, mentor, consultant, CoachingConsultants

To read the original article posted on Linday’s LinkedIn, click here.

Loved this great global event this year. Here are my main takeaways in no particular order:-

  1. Ad agencies are winning Cannes PR Lions for what are effectively public affairs campaigns. We talk about convergence and overlap between the comms disciplines a lot, but this, to me, is a biggie. The ad agencies win budgets which are many times that which a public affairs agency could expect. Why? Because they are aligning with the marketing function where the money is and focusing advice and spend on issues which are of strategic importance to the business and which matter to their clients and customers. This example of the Trash Isles campaign blew me away – getting the UN to recognise the Pacific trash patch as a country triggers all sorts of legal responsibilities and is public affairs campaigning at its best – even if it did come from an ad agency. The example shared by Aedhmar Hynes of Text100 of this film made by a Danish Financial Services Union about gender equality viewed through the eyes of children is equally powerful (and makes me cry every time…). Unions, businesses and associations making the case to change policy, through advertising techniques – that’s the future, particularly when trust in the political process is particularly low. Does the public affairs industry step up to deliver the same impact? Not always in my view….
  2. Nike was the star of the show at this Summit with speaker after speaker apologising for showing the Kaepernik ad again. Stand for something and get a boost on the stockmarket. That was the message loud and clear from agency leaders last week.
  3. Lil Micheala – I didn’t know about this AI Instagram star. Apparently now that she has a million followers, this bot has moved on to social issues and is raising awareness about kids held in detention camps for example. She’s tapping into what her followers care about and businesses should be doing the same, not only for consumers, but because increasingly, our employees expect us to stand up for what we believe in too.
  4. Talent and diversity were high on the agenda for many – with consensus being that clients benefit most when the message taps into the audience we are trying to reach. If we are one-dimensional in our hires, we’ll never be able to get the message right in this world where people are kicking back against the establishment.
  5. SOS: Stop sending out stuff, said Alex Aitken of the Government Communication Service. Music to my ears. I spend a lot of time talking to people about the simple act of asking why before you send anything or even begin work on it. Doing it the same way is doing it the stale way.
  6. Make yourself uncomfortable. Chimes with the above. Applies to hires, messaging, diversity, consultation. If we can adopt a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, our businesses are more likely to be able to accept, and adapt to the challenges facing them.
  7. One P and L. Another one which was music to my ears. Barbara Bates, Global CEO of Hotwire swears by it. Stops the squabbling and does away with a mindset of protecting and enhancing offices or teams. Builds collaboration.
  8. Purpose. Purpose was everywhere. Quote of the day for me: If employees are so important to purpose, why aren’t we asking them what it is?

Thank you to the whole ICCO and PRCA teams and particularly to Elise Mitchell, the President, for a fabulous conference. See you all next year.

Truth or dare?

We are living in an era where Turks that burn dollars and smash their iPhones are joined by Americans destroying their Nike socks and shoes. Back in the days we had witnessed those who burned their Italian shoes and cars that are perhaps bought with long-term loans and many financial difficulties. History really does repeat itself. I am sure there is a term for this kind of behavior in psychology, but since our interest lies in “brand reputation”, we will turn our attention to this aspect of the issue.   

Why do Americans today burn their Nike socks and shoes? Because there is a brand-new movement happening called #JustBurnIt. 

As you can easily imagine, they are protesting Nike with a play on the brand’s legendary slogan Just Do It. But who are they? They are the people who criticize Colin Kaepernick, one of the faces of Nike’s 30th anniversary ad campaign. And who is Colin Kaepernick? He is the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. Apart from being named as a runner up on TIME’s Person of the Year 2017 and receiving many awards such as the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, he is currently facing backlash by a considerable part of the American population, including President Donald Trump himself.  

But what is it about Kaepernick that sharply divided US opinion between resentment and admiration? Kaepernick has started a movement by refusing to stand for the national anthem before games in 2016 with the aim to draw attention to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, launched to protest police brutality and discrimination against black people. And he did. Many people applauded his courage, and other players have also joined the protest. Awards and honors that I briefly mentioned above came thereafter.     

At this point, Nike took the step that now makes us all wonder if it is a moment of truth or dare. Colin Kaepernick is among the names that are being featured on Nike’s 30th anniversary ad campaign, along with Serena Williams, Odell Beckham Jr. and Shaquem Griffin. With a reference to his civil disobedience, Kaepernick’s ad reads: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”.  

Kaepernick is not Nike’s first “controversial” choice. The brand previously used Lance Armstrong in its advertising despite his doping incident, Maria Sharapova after she failed a drug test, and Tiger Woods during his numerous, very public scandals. Of course, Colin Kaepernick debate is a bit different, as this time, the issue is also highly political. 

As I mentioned in the beginning, #JustBurnIt has started. It has been reported that in just two days, Nike’s shares dropped 3 percent, though they are now on the rise again. In the meantime, Nike made its first official statement: “We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward,” Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s vice president of brand for North America. 

Is it “dare” to launch such a campaign, take the risk of losing money and stand by your decision despite recognizing your customers are sharply divided? Or, knowing that the brand is particularly strong among African-Americans, is it the “truth” of a well calculated market research? The process has just begun. We will all wait and see what the next steps will be. Who is going to win? Colin Kaepernick saying “Black Lives Matter” by rekindling an old protest, or Nike taking a stance on a very sensitive, political issue? 

Esra Şengülen Ünsür
Vice President of the Board, Communication Consultancies Association of Turkey (İDA)
Managing Partner, Artı Communication Management

Journalism and fake-news, our role as educators

From EUPRERA news.

by Wim J.L. Elving,
professor Sustainable Communication,
Hanze University of Applied Sciences,
Groningen, the Netherlands

On Thursday, August 16th, 2018, 350 newspapers in the United States took a stand in support of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the importance of a free press to freedom and democracy. Eleven communications and public relations organizations expressed support for the critical role of a free press and the First Amendment. The Arthur W. Page Society did so by quoting Thomas Jefferson:

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”  This often-cited quote conveys the fundamental importance of today’s free press despite its articulation before electronic, digital and social media were invented. The dramatic expression by a founding father who was brutally criticized by the media of his time underscores that the standing of a free press transcends politics, geographies or other affiliations.

Although some UK based organizations did join this statement, European organizations, including EUPRERA and the EACD remained silent. Communication, PR, corporate communication all have close relations with journalists and other members of the press. In our profession we still rely on the media and journalists. There is a large cross-over between journalism and communication, and of course in our classes we highlight the importance of the press and the value of free press. I think the European PR and communication organizations missed an opportunity, by not expressing support to our American counterparts. In Europe we face the same troubles with some governments as well (Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Russia), but also with social media platforms, you use algorithms to feed us with news and other items but are not under control of a governing body.

We are seduced and influenced by bots, algorithms and other influencers, so we need to set up a new set of ethical rules, so we at least know that others are influencing us. In the past, this was simple, commercials on the television or advertisements in newspapers and magazine were easy to recognize and we could ignore these. Currently, persuasive communication is at a much more hidden, sneaky level. Now when you are in marketing you probably like the opportunities these give you, but in public relations, corporate communication and as a consumer, these options should scare you, just as you should be warned by all the political stuff happening on social media platforms, where public opinion became a business model and all kinds of influencers bought our attention for their terrible posts regarding anti-vaccination, Brexit, the US election, and who knows what more will come forward in how public opinion was falsely infiltrated with false information and dubious persuasive attempts.

In my humble opinion we, as communication scholars and teachers, have huge responsibilities. First, we need to develop state of the art ethics, that include extension of ethics on social media platforms. We have excellent rules, for instance the aforementioned A.W. Page Society, with its Page principles, but many alternatives and good text books are available, like the handbook of communication ethics, by George Cheney, Steve May, and Debashish Munshi (2011).

I think it is time to scale up our efforts regarding to ethics, free press and the independent position of journalists but also find ways (do research) into ethical issues and social media. We need to take part in the discussion regarding media ethics and inspire policy makers and politicians about the need to come forward with rules and regulations regarding ethics. It cannot be the that the CEO’s of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are deciding what is allowed and what not?

The well-known, iconic picture above was banned from Facebook because of nudity of the girl who got her body burned because of a Napalm attack in the Vietnam war. Facebook decided that this picture should not be allowed on its platform. Only after protest they allowed it again.

Maybe we have taken for granted the role of the free press, like a hygiene factor, it is there, we have established quality journalism, and we do not need to pay much attention to it anymore. Recent developments made it in my view clear that this is not the case anymore. When the president of the most dominant democracy of the last 100 years is referring to fake news to hide his own incompetence’s, we need to scale up our efforts in training and education in ethics, to make sure that the next generation of communicators have the competencies and skills to defend our basic rights, our basic freedom and the value of the free press.



Cheney, G., May, S., & Munshi D., (2011). The handbook of Communication Ethics. London: Routledge.


Originally posted for Euprera. For the original article, click here.

#POWERofETHICS: Embracing Ethics Month

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.

Author: David Gallagher FPRCA, President, Growth & Development, International Omnicon Public Relations PR Group

For the original blog, click here.

PRs and communicators should to learn to love AI

Understand and use AI the right way, learn to love what it can do for you in comms, and it will be an essential ally in your work. 

By Joanna Arnold

We know one of the greatest challenges for PRs and communicators is getting an up-to-date and informed 360 degree view and perception of the brands they work on.

How do you cope with all the external and internal information available to build this picture? In real time?

You need as much relevant data as possible but too much unfiltered, or uncontextualised, information hinders good – and timely – decision making. Particularly when you are at the centre of a media storm.

The challenge of context and communication

Imagine being at the centre of the turmoil surrounding TSB at the moment. A severe IT failure – and ongoing problems – has angered UK consumers and investors, and left TSB CEO Paul Pester facing some difficult questions. How can he and his advisors manage the bank’s reputation, and his own, by keeping on top of the latest news as the story continues to unfold?

This is not just a consumer story, of course. What are the 8,500 or so UK staff at TSB thinking and feeling, let alone saying, on social media? There are the views of regulators and the Government to consider too.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to go far to think of another multi-faceted comms challenge. Think of the stories around the fallout from Sir Martin Sorrell’s departure from WPP in April. It’s not just about what journalists are writing, however. What about other stakeholders, such as investors and clients? Coverage of WPP’s AGM last week highlighted differing views from investors on how Sir Martin’s departure has been handled. And, it’s not just WPP’s reputation that is affected, it is that of Sir Martin, and WPP’s chairman Roberto Quarta.

To plan for, react to and predict the right way to deal with stories like these, you need to know which influencers are receptive to your messaging and content. And those who are hostile. Or likely to be. And are those influencers capable of affecting your, or your client’s, reputation with your key audiences and stakeholders?

You also need to filter out the wrong information – from irrelevant stories to fake news –  and all of this should be available as quickly as possible through a single accessible platform.

Ultimately, you need actionable intelligence to be effective.

And this is where AI comes in. AI sits at the heart of the solution as a powerful way of contextualising and filtering excessive unstructured data.

It can help you react fast to existing issues, find key stakeholders aligning with strategic topics quickly and can help you identify emerging topics and future opportunities and challenges through correlating events and patterns.

Media monitoring is a great example of this. It’s a crucial tool in the communicator’s armoury requiring the consumption, analysis and contextualisation of information from virtually everywhere – not just the media. At Vuelio, monitoring covers all the activity from the UK Parliaments, Government departments and the wider stakeholder community. AI has a massive role to play here – what’s more, it is only just starting to fulfil its potential.

But, of course, AI can help further. It will take on the burden of contact management – whether you are talking about stakeholders or journalists or clients – and boost relationship management in almost every dimension.

Just think about the benefits of true integration, as profiles are enriched by information and feedback from the rest of the platform, your on-going activity and its impact on key audiences. All of this will give communicators actionable, real-time intelligence based on a filter of the world’s millions of news sources and publications.

In short, AI – particularly machine learning – will help us not only react to what has just happened, or been published, Tweeted or Instagrammed, it will help us plan what we should be doing next.

Effective strategic decision-making and predictive PR strategies

Ultimately, this should enable more effective strategic decision-making and gives us the potential to create truly predictive PR and stakeholder strategies.

It’s all about intelligence, and not just the artificial kind. If your relationship management platform is hyper-targeted and contextualised, you will start to get real-time global intelligence at scale and enhance your role. Think of the power and opportunity you will then have at your fingertips.

If we don’t allow the exciting possibilities of AI to help us – as communicators – keep on top of a rapidly changing world, how will we ever keep up with the present, let alone enter the future with confidence?

The CIPR is doing a great job presenting the power of the possibilities new technology offers, but, to realise them fully, more of us need to learn to love AI.

About Joanna Arnold

Joanna is the CEO of Access Intelligence, which owns Vuelio, the leading provider of software for communications, public affairs and stakeholder engagement, and owner of the annual Vuelio Blog Awards, which takes place on November 30 2018. Joanna joined Access Intelligence in December 2008 and has completed three acquisitions and two funding rounds with the business.

Originally written for You can see the original article here.

Author: Joanna Arnold, CEO, Access Intelligence

Flawed news

A breaking news story this weekend demonstrates how fake news travels thanks to human curiosity, algorithms, and search. Reporting the death of an individual should be an ethical red line, whatever the media.

The death of a senior member of the royal family trended on Twitter over the weekend.

Rather than rebutting the story, traditional media fuelled speculation by publishing the protocol for announcing the death of a member of the royal family.

The combination of these two mechanics shows how easy it is to spread misinformation, and the challenge that social media platforms and mainstream media face in tackling fake news.

Tracing the origin of a fake news story

The death of Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, trended on Twitter for more than 12 hours on Friday and Saturday.

Prince Philip is 97 and has stepped down from public duties. He is recovering from an hip operation but the story is false. It could have been fact checked within 30 seconds by calling the Royal press office.

Mike Wendling from the BBC’s Trending team traced the origin of the story to a far right blog called Knights Templar International. It circulated via Facebook and on WhatsApp before breaking on Twitter.

Prince Philip trended in the UK, and was spotted by journalists. But instead of rebutting the story, mainstream media spotted the opportunity to gain search traffic.

Our typical reaction to spotting a trending topic is to check its authenticity via Google.

Mainstream fuels speculation via search

Several mainstream media outlets reported the protocol for announcing the death of a senior member of the Royal Family. The Manchester Evening News went further and posted a gallery of images of Prince Philip.

The stories in national and regional media appeared in the top of Google searches and fuelled speculation. The topic trended again on Sunday.

Newsrooms track trending topics on social networks nationally and in communities such as business and politics as a way of spotting breaking stories.

Tools such as Trendolizer and Newship enable the level of engagement around a story to be determined. They’re often used as a means of news discovery and prediction.

But fact and fiction spread at equal speed on the web. A study by MIT Sloan School of Management published in Science in March reported that fake news spread significantly further and faster than true news stories.

Facebook pulled trending topics from its platform in June to counter the issue but Twitter has made no such move.

Facebook and Twitter claim to be platforms and not publishers and adhere to their own community standards rather than recognised editorial standards.

Twitter countered the Prince Philip story with a Twitter Moment that showed royal correspondents rebutting the story.

I think that the use of Twitter as source for news means it needs to go further.

Fake news is a form of manipulation that is impacting every area of public discourse from politics to the reputation of individuals and organisations. However speculation about the death of an individual, whether of public significance or not, is an ethical red line and this needs to change.

Rebutting fake news

In my day job at Ketchum we advise organisations to rebut fake news using a combination of integrated media depending on the source and situation. This can include paid (search), earned (blogs and traditional media), shared (communities and influencers) and owned (apps and web).

Buckingham Palace has stopped short of issuing a statement but has briefed media this afternoon about the health of Prince Philip.

Summary: Tackling fake news

#1 Integrated media response

Counter the fake news using an integrated Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned (PESO) media. Typically paid and owned media will lead.

#2 Flag  content with host

Contact the website host or social media site and flag the misinformation and request its immediate take down.

#3 Formal compliant and legal action

Make a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Consider legal action for defamation, misuse of private information or breach of copyright or data protection.

Image via Unsplash by Luchenko Yana.

Originally written for You can see the original article here.

Author: Stephen Waddington, Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum

When Passion Meets Ethics

“Passion is when you’re willing to quit your job over something in which you believe.”

I’m not sure who to originally said this, but, regardless, these words have long resonated with me, and it’s something I once remembered at a very specific crossroads in my life. It was a weekend morning and I was hastily dressing for an impromptu business meeting. My wife asked me what was happening and where I was going, and all I could say was, “I think I’m going to have to quit my job today.” And then I left for that meeting.

How do you think she reacted? Let’s just say she was nervous for the both of us and for our two kids.

Without going into detail, here’s what I can say about that situation: Someone was insisting that we communicate something in a way that did not comply with my core values. I knew if I went along, a wide range of problems could happen for the organization — or on the other hand, nothing could happen. This pretty much frames most ethical dilemmas, doesn’t it?

But deep down I knew that if my worst fears were even partially true, I could not go along, and the time to act would not be later when things started to unfold.

Even in non-crisis PR situations, “now” reflects a time well before something reaches the public eye. What we choose to do or don’t do today usually involves an irreversible course tomorrow. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges for ethical decision making — knowing that we sometimes have to make firm decisions as though dark clouds are above us during times when, figuratively speaking, we look out our windows and the sun is still shining and no one around us seems concerned.

On that weekend morning, I went to the meeting and I made my case. In the process, I knew that I may have put my family’s financial security and my career in the balance.

That adage about a passion I cited at the start of this post was as key as ever. And it revolved around what I saw as a commitment to doing the right thing. This is hardly an original idea. Doing the right thing gets at the very essence of good public relations.

It was Benjamin Franklin who coined the term, “Do well by doing good.” Perhaps for those five words alone we should draw a dotted line to him as one of the founders of modern PR thinking.

When we decide to put our jobs on the line to do the right thing in a PR context, the glue that binds the decision is passion. True passion means possessing a clear head and a willingness to take risks, experience setbacks, suffer losses and live with the consequences, all in the name of doing what you think you must do.

So how did my moment turn out?

Fortunately, I was able to convince the powers that be that the course I recommended was the best option. Keep in mind, these are not often template situations. It’s not the we-did-something-wrong-so-we-guess-we-need-to-be-transparent-and-apologize stuff. Real ethical dilemmas are more nuanced, with deep roots, long histories, serious ramifications and lots of gray areas.

As events unfolded, the worst-case scenario did start to develop. But by taking a more difficult path, the organization had earned the goodwill it needed to get through it and come out positioned for future success.

In PRSA they have a Code of Ethics, and for some, there is the assumption that it exists to tell us how to be ethical. That’s not how I see it.

By now, each of us should know right from wrong, and we should have found a way to incorporate that understanding into our own professional and personal value systems. Our own values should drive all of our work, decision-making, and communications.

For me, the role of the Code is for all of us to find common ground. It’s a meeting place for everyone’s core values, which in turn informs the core values of our profession.

In 2018, I was fortunate to have been tapped to join PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS). It’s been a chance for me to get to know a group of some of the most impressive people you’ll meet in this profession. In this group, you will find the passion I described earlier. These individuals know firsthand what it means to put your core values first.

As we head into Ethics Month at PRSA, try this little exercise: Take a few quiet minutes to contemplate scenarios where you would willingly and knowingly walk away from a job or an assignment on the basis that it conflicts with some uncompromising value that you hold. Don’t share it with anyone; just think about it. At some point, you will discover your passion.

Originally written for PRSA. You can see the original article here.

Author: Tim O’Brien, owner, O’Brien Communications