Here’s hoping you liked my first post regarding how to survive the nightly conference parties. I’m back to share an experience I had regarding ethics and integrity in public relations for you to contemplate.
Consider this situation:
You are the assistant to the Public Relations Manager who handles communications for a manufactured home company. (No worries, it has been out of business for years.)
You like your boss because she is fair, good at what she does and works hard. She honestly believes the people she works for are ethical.
It’s a small town where many people relied on this company for their jobs. The local media put up with the company because of this even though a new model of a manufactured home wasn’t really the news they wanted to hear.
One day, the CEO decided he wanted some publicity and proposed the media visit his local home, manufactured by the company. (Talk about spin!) Now, back in 2001, you pretty much received a directive and did your best to make his wishes come true.
I want to reiterate that my manager was a professional and had ethics.
Now, I’m going to give you a scenario and would like to know what you would do. I’ll also let you know what I did.
The CEO says he wants to prove how fabulous the homes are by inviting the media to his “open house”. As part of the PR team, you’ve alerted the media to the event and arrived early to check out the house yourself and look for anything that could go wrong.
You discover it’s what you expected. It’s never actually been lived in, despite the decorative kitchen and pair of tennis shoes next to the room that the treadmill occupies.
The PR manager knows the CEO is arriving with his wife in 30 minutes and is frantically calling all of her local media contacts, urging them to show up.
A couple of cameras arrive just before the homeowners.
What would you do?
- Smile as you stand in the background
- Help sell the media
- If the media shows up, back up the story
- Support your boss and then look for a new job
- Stand off to the side in disgust
- Other suggestions?
It’s was obviously fake, but we all went through the drill with smiles on our faces. Fortunately, the media did a brief story over some b-roll.
WHAT I DID AND WHY
My manager was (and still is) a great person, very professional, and went on to a very productive career with a Fortune 500 company. We did our job as professionals, because we are professionals. I supported my boss in every way and engaged with the media as appropriate. In addition, I wasn’t about to lose my job or let her lose hers because of an executive’s whim. Yet this experience, combined with a few others, was the final straw for me. This company was not the place for me. I continue to do my job to the best of my ability while quietly looking for a new job.
WHAT WE LEARNED
You will, at some point in your career, be asked to do something that isn’t your cup of tea. And it could be asked of you by someone above you, which usually leaves you with no choice.
Depending on the situation, you will have to make some choices. My advice to you is to have a conversation with yourself first.