Building a Culture of Ethics, One Decision at a Time

July 18, 2013

by Dave Senay

Dave Senay, FleishmanHillard president and CEO, is the 2013 chair of the Council of PR Firms. Among his efforts in this role, the Council is sharing with the entire industry Ethics as Culture, a comprehensive resource and training guide created by FleishmanHillard and the Josephson Institute. The following article, which originally appeared in the Council’s blog, The Firm Voice, explains why now is the time for such a resource.

We’ve never lived in times quite like these.

The freedoms that we enjoy, and that so many still fight to defend, have been amplified in amazing new ways by new channels of communication. Our collective voice has never been stronger. Neither has our will to raise that voice to address a wide range of issues and concerns. We demand more. More accountability, more transparency and more action from those we’re invested in – the politicians who represent us, the employers we work for, the businesses we patronize.

But it’s one thing to draw more attention to the world’s problems, and quite another to solve them. Despite the greater volume and reach of our collective voice, we continue to witness examples of governments that ignore the needs of their citizens, economies that rise and fall on a tide of unscrupulous activities and corporations that bend the rules in the name of profit.

Some of this, to be sure, is the deliberate work of an unprincipled few. But more often, I think, it flows from an inability of generally well-intentioned people and organizations to maintain an effective ethical compass in our rapidly changing world. Some organizations have fallen behind and don’t understand how to engage in this new communications climate. Others have become too large too fast, growing and expanding at a rate that makes it hard to maintain the strong culture of integrity that’s the foundation for ethical decision-making.

Because that’s really what it all comes down to – people, whatever organization they may be part of, making consistently honest and ethical decisions, one decision at a time.

Ethics as Culture was created to support and promote that kind of business decision-making by providing the tools and resources our employees need to serve our clients in the most ethical manner possible. And its benefits can extend well beyond our own agency teams to the clients we counsel. Through this program, we can help them create a cultural environment in which integrity and ethical behavior are not achieved through a list of rules, but through an innate mindset that permeates all levels of the organization.

I sincerely hope you find the resource guide and associated training materials to be valuable as you review and further develop your company’s ethics initiatives. Please share it with your employees and colleagues. This is an opportunity to set an even higher standard of excellence for our industry, as well as provide our partners with a behavioral model that will help them succeed in this new world.