Trends In Ethical PR

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It is a difficult time to be in PR and Communications. The stakes are high and it’s easy to miss the mark. I spoke at the Virginia Professional Communicators Conference on Saturday, as the group celebrated its 60th Anniversary. We had lively discussions about how to see ethical nuances clearly when the issues are complex.

Today I am sharing quotes from articles about PR trends in navigating the complexity of today’s social issues while protecting reputation and brand value.  

PR  Plays a Critical Role in Brand Reputation

“PR pros are often referred to as The Brand Police for their work in reputation management, their efforts to preserve the health of the brand and to keep the public “cup of goodwill” full.”

Deidre Breakenridge, Five Reasons Why Business Leaders Are Relying on Public Relations in 2018, Nasdaq Market Insite

The Current Environment Requires PR Pros To Develop New Skills 

“Successful PR practitioners of the future must also be adept at business, content creation, environmental scanning, managing people, ethics, purpose-driven corporate social responsibility, stakeholder engagement and interpreting data and analytics.” 

Donald K. Wright, What Lies Ahead For Public Relations in 2018?

Brands Need to Be Clear on Values Before Speaking Up

“The famous Alexander Hamilton quote applies nicely here: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Consider this an invitation to figure out what your brand stands for.”

SproutSocial, Championing Change in the Age of Social Media

Practitioners Need Robust Support 

“Millennial practitioners indicated they did not feel prepared to offer ethics counsel…Four factors were found to significantly impact Millennials’ perceptions of preparedness: mentors, ethics courses in college, employer-provided ethics training, and PRSA/PRSSA ethics training.”

Marlene Neill and Nancy Weaver, Institute For Public Relations, Ethics Study Identifies Need For Training & Mentors in the Workplace

Global Ethical PR Principles Available

“The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) has called on the worldwide PR industry to stand by 10 principles of ethical behaviour…The Helsinki Declaration (has) been launched today, aimed at uniting the global PR industry under a single banner of ethical behaviour. It takes into account the increasing influence of PR around the world, and the considerable dangers associated with unethical behaviour.”

ICCO, ICCO announces Helsinki Declaration for ethical behaviour at ICCO Global Summit 2017

Consumers Expect Brands to Take A Stand on Social Issues

“Two-thirds of consumers (66%) say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues…Not only do they want to hear from brands, but they expect brands to converse in intelligent and impactful ways.”

“The data demonstrates that people find brands’ voices most credible when an issue directly impacts their customers, employees or business operations.”

SproutSocial, Championing Change in the Age of Social Media

Putting all of the pieces together in ways that result in ethical communication takes practice. Ongoing ethical development for PR professionals helps them learn to navigate the complexity of the current environment and avoid public blunders. If you want to dig into the 7 Lenses Model to learn how to see the nuances of ethical issues, this post will get you started – Seeing the Nuances of Ethical Leadership (a Developmental Model)

Top 100 Leadership Blog

Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)


© 2018 Leading in Context LLC


5 Years of Top Posts: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This week I’m sharing selected Top Posts By Year from the Leading in Context Blog. It’s a time capsule of the issues you thought were most important over the last 5 years. For each year, I have selected a theme that reflects the topics and focus of the top posts.          

2017: Adapting To Increasing Stakeholder Expectations

Everyone is a Stakeholder at Some Level

Ethical Leadership is About Service, Not Privilege

Ethical Leadership: The “On” Switch For Adaptability

Talking About What Matters (Part 1)

2016: Understanding Leader Roles, Responsibilities & Relationships

10 Ways the Leadership Relationship is Changing (Part 1)

Great Leaders are Other-Focused

The Future of Learning Isn’t About “Knowing”

2015: Becoming Our Ethical Best

Imagining the Future of Leadership

Just Say No to 10 Behaviors That Kill Competence

40 Ways to Build an Ethical Culture (An Ethical To Do List)

2014: Changing Ethical Leadership Expectations

10 Forces Fueling the Values-Based Leadership Movement

Understanding (And Preventing) Ethical Leadership Failures

What is the Ultimate Goal of Leadership?

2013 Theme: Leading Through Complexity While Building Trust

Dealing With Complexity in Leadership

Should Trust Be Freely Offered or Conditionally Earned?

Modeling Ethical Leadership and Behavior

These top posts are ones that readers found most useful. There will be many more compelling articles about ethical thinking and leadership coming in 2018. New posts are published weekly at If there are topics you want to learn more about in 2018, please suggest them in the comments!


Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)


Top 100 Leadership Blog

© 2018 Leading in Context LLC



Honoring Human Rights is Essential


by Linda Fisher Thornton

Human Rights and Morality 

Business leaders have a clear responsibility to honor universal human rights. In their article The Moral Foundations of Ethical Leadership in the Values Based Leadership Journal, Hester and Killian remind us that “morality is inclusive, emphasizing human rights and dignity, respectful of diversity.”

Addressing Human Rights Risks

John Sherman, III, Harvard Kennedy School of Government believes that businesses must manage human rights risks along with other corporate risks.

“Is knowledge of human rights risks a company’s friend or its enemy? No one likes bad news, and messengers who deliver it may choose to do so gingerly. But it’s critically important for a company to investigate, understand, and act on facts – however unpleasant – that might pose real risks to it and its stakeholders in order to ensure that it addresses those risks.

If we have learned nothing else from the financial crisis, it is this – the failure by companies to understand and respond to the true nature and depth of their risks can devastate them and society. This principle is as true for human rights risks as it is for other company risks.”

John Sherman, III, Knowledge of Human Rights: Company Friend or Enemy? Institute for Human Rights and Business,

Ethical Leaders Protect Human Rights

There are universal guidelines for responsible business that describe the leadership responsibility for protecting human rights.  Using global guidelines (which include the UN Global Compact and the Caux Roundtable Principles for Responsible Business), we can evaluate our approach and learn how well we’re doing.  Use the following sources to assess how well you are honoring human rights in your organization.

Principles for Responsible Business

“The principles recognize that while laws and market forces are necessary, they are insufficient guides for responsible business conduct.”

“The principles are rooted in three ethical foundations for responsible business and for a fair and functioning society more generally, namely: responsible stewardship; living and working for mutual advantage; and the respect and protection of human dignity.”

The Caux Roundtable Principles for Responsible Business,

The UN Global Compact

“The UN Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rightslabour,environment and anti-corruption. By doing so, business, as a primary driver of globalization, can help ensure that markets, commerce, technology and finance advance in ways that benefit economies and societies everywhere.”

The UN Global Compact,

United Nations Human Rights

“The responsibility to respect human rights is not, however, limited to compliance with such domestic law provisions. It exists over and above legal compliance, constituting a global standard of expected conduct applicable to all businesses in all situations. It therefore also exists independently of an enterprise’s own commitment to human rights.”

United Nation Human Rights, The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights: An Interpretive Guide,

The Netter Principles (Inclusion)

“In an inclusive organization, visible and invisible heterogeneity is present throughout all departments and at all levels of responsibility. Human differences and similarities are welcomed, valued and utilized at all levels across all formal and informal organizational systems.”

The Netter Principles, A Framework for Building Organizational Inclusion, The Workplace Diversity Network,

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Ethical Leaders Honor Human Rights

As leaders, we are expected to protect human rights in all that we do. In our quest to lead responsibly, we must continually consider the question “How do we need to change in order to better honor human rights?”

If you are in the process of developing a corporate human rights policy, A Guide for Business: How to Develop a Human Rights Policy (UN Human Rights, Global Compact) is helpful in beginning the discussion.

Related Leading in Context® Blog Posts:

Leadership and Human Rights

Ethical Leaders Care and Ethical Leaders Care Part Two: In Action

Assessing Corporate Ethics


For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

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