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


Labels Divide, Values Conquer


By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have noticed that when people speak from LABELS (their group identity, their belief system, their affiliation), they are talking from the interests of that label. This can quickly become divisive if that label doesn’t include everyone. If a label is broad enough – like the label “human” –  it can automatically be an ethical and inclusive conversation. But since most labels aren’t that broad, we need to use ethical values to guide us. 

When people speak from VALUES (respect, care, inclusion, sustainability), the conversation more naturally moves to “How can we live out that value?”(all of us, together) instead of “What can we (members of this label) do that is best for us?”

Labels DIVIDE people into groups, and highlight their special nature and interests. 
Values UNITE people, and highlight shared interests and common concerns. 

Labels can be positive. helping us unite people around a common issue, but they need to be used carefully. Why? 

Using LABELS without also using ethical values means that we are probably declaring ourselves special at someone else’s expense.

VALUES help us conquer the human tendency to act in our own best interests. They remind us that we are responsible for more than our own success and that we need to make sure that our impact on others is positive. 

Top 100 Leadership Blog




Ethical Leaders See Their Choices Through All 7 Lenses

Includes case examples and questions.

Click the book cover for a preview.  

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership®

©2017 Leading in Context LLC

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