High standards and professional ethics are the industry’s crucial raison d’être and an everyday call to action

By Kresten Schultz Jørgensen, CEO, Oxymoron Communication & Board Member, Kreativitet & Kommunikation (The Association of Advisory Creative Business in Denmark)

& Boline Skovly, Communication Officer, Kreativitet & Kommunikation

If recent history has taught us anything, the most important lesson for communication practitioners and the global industry is that communication has for all practical purposes become means in modern warfare. For some, this might sound as a postulate, however reality backs it up. And indeed, we professionals must acknowledge that our expertise can be used in the service of both good and evil. Good, is the articulation of knowledge and valid opinions. Bad, is propaganda and fake news.

Today, the communications industry is challenged by the commercialization of a few tech giants. The platforms are not only distorted with noise. Over the last years we have witnessed state propaganda, fake news and disinformation that has twisted rule of law and altered societies. As a concrete example, the world witnessed an American election in 2016 that was heavily influenced by Russian interests. This is ultimately what is at stake and this calls for self-reflection within the industry.

Finetune your ethical compass

High standards and professional ethics have always been the foundation of the communications industry, but today they are the most vital competitive parameters in a world where communication is the primary component in both geopolitics and social development. Communication governs the world–and with that follows a great responsibility, ethical behavior, and standards.

Within the Public Relations and Public Affairs discipline, we often work under the radar. Our work and expertise every so often take place in closed spaces, such as dealing with a crisis before it becomes a public crisis or the drafting of political legislation before it is made public. It is our job to participate in policy development for the whole of society, and every communication consultant needs to finetune his or her ethical compass to navigate. Why? Because we are a guarantee of reliable sources of information. But adjusting your ethical compass is not a static exercise. More is it a dynamic process that calls for constant attention.

Furthermore, Public Relations and Public Affairs often start with a problem–other communication disciplines have different starting points e.g., an opportunity, a solution, or a product. The political and crisis-related angles in our professionalism imply that we cannot, nor must we take the wrong shortcuts. In other words, there lies a great responsibility on the individual communications consultant and company in relation to working in accordance with the adopted standards.

Helsinki, Stockholm, and Danish national ethical guidelines

The most urgent challenge today is to value and nurture the ethics of the industry. We believe that we must be at the forefront of standing together with and about high standards. On a national level, we work under a collection of ethical guidelines in Denmark and on an international level we support and conform to ICCO’s Helsinki Declaration and Stockholm Charter.