Results rule or ethics rule?

John Kultgen believes that “If I have done my job well for the right purpose, my life has substance and meaning. If I have done my job poorly or for the wrong purpose, I have squandered my life, however much I have prospered.” This is also my philosophy of work. As a PR practitioner, sometimes we have to face an ethical dilemma between good results and moral things. Since we are in a profession ruled by results, obtaining good results is the only way to satisfy our bosses or clients, but results-oriented thinking may tempt you to sacrifice your ethical values.

One year ago, I interviewed two PR managers for my PR professor’s study of PR ethics in the professional world. Talking with the interviewees made me more confident with this profession in my country. Both of the PR managers did their jobs by practicing extraordinary ethical self-discipline. Professor Jasso said, “we won’t be revoked licenses or bear legal liabilities if we violate the PRSA Code of Ethics.” Every decision we make is up to ourselves but don’t forget that news runs from mouth to mouth. The PR manager from a renowned company told me, “This is a small world, I do what I say. For the sake of personal and professional credibility and the company’s reputation, do not break your word. Otherwise, no one will trust you.”

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The other PR manager from an agency also frankly shared her point of views, “I hesitated when I was facing a dilemma, whether I should disclose negative market information regarding a main opponent of my client to the media and industry partners. If I did, we had an opportunity to hit their business badly. However, in the long term, I will lose my credibility among my peers and this industry. PR is a profession about doing things right, but doing right things is more important.” Her story echoes Professor Jasso’s reminder, “Be trustworthy, because of the nature of your profession, you will have a bigger chance to gain inside knowledge in advance than anyone else. Do remember that your job also needs to fulfill social responsibilities by promoting free, ethical competition and enforcing high standards of conduct.”

We should take this occupation as a real profession, not just a job for a living. Although not everyone is in the same boat, especially when we may need to pay a “high price” for one ethical decision, more and more peers are taking pride in their jobs and having desire to do it ethically. I believe that is the way to help improve the regulation of this industry.

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