April Five: Ethical Decision Making

When you reach a fork in the road, will you know which road to take?

When you reach a fork in the road, will you know which road to take?


It’s hard to believe my college career is almost over! I have been taking my last required course this semester, which is Ethics, Law and Diversity in Strategic Communication, the inspiration behind many of my blog posts this year. Although this class is my last required course, it’s definitely not the least. Although it’s important to be experienced and educated on topics in public relations to have a successful career, ethics is the only facet of any industry that can make or break a career in a matter of seconds. This class has taught me lifelong methods for making ethical decisions and has equipped me with resources I know will refer to many years from now.

Here are five resources and decision-making tools that I have used in-depth this semester:

1. LEAP is a decision-making model that I learned at the beginning of the semester that I plan to keep handy as I “LEAP” into my first job. This is a great model to use for any decision, as it is thorough and asks a few really great questions.

L- Learn everything you can

  • What are the key facts and data?
  • What outcome is important?
  • Which laws/policies/codes apply? (Always keep the PRSA Code of Ethics handy)
  • What raises an ethical red flag?
  • Who are the stakeholders?

E- Evaluate your options

  • Level 1: If all stakeholders agree, move ahead
  • Level 2: When it’ s not that simple…
  • Consult a mentor for a fresh perspective
  • Identify key consequences

A-  Access your intuition

  • Can you sleep at night knowing you made a certain decision?
  • What would your mother think about said decision?
  • As my professor says, “how would you feel if your decisions today were tomorrow’s headlines?”

P- Put your decision into action

  • Time to act
  • Evaluate

2. The Potter Box is a decision-making tool created by Harvard’s Ralph Potter that helps break down an ethical dilemma into a definition, list of values, principles and loyalties that help the user make a final decision. This model is useful in seeing the bigger picture when making important choices that will have consequences, good or bad.

Screen shot 2014-04-30 at 11.30.32 PM

  • Definition: What took place?
  • Values: What values come into play in each decision you could take? (Values can be professional, logical, moral, sociocultural or religious).
  • Principles: What moral principle is applicable to this situation?
  • Loyalties: How will your decision affect those who you are loyal to?

3. The PRSA Code of Ethics has basically been my Bible throughout this course. Even before taking this ethics class I have used the PRSA Code of Ethics at PRSSA conferences and events, but I know this will always be a helpful tool and reminder of the important values each professional should exercise

4. Case Studies- How can we ensure the past wont repeat itself if we don’t know the history of ethics in public relations and advertising? I enjoyed participating in four case studies this semester that helped me understand applied ethics on a deeper level and examine how an understanding of ethics can help professionals avoid major consequences. More importantly, conducting ethical business is much more rewarding and beneficial for the industry, the company and the community. Several case study projects I participated in include SeaWorld’s response to Blackfish, Dolce and Gabbana’s “fantasy rape” ad campaign and BP’s crisis management in the destructive oil spill. I hope to continue paying attention as case studies play out so I know how to handle my own if the time comes.

5. Lastly, I’ve been learning how a network of reliable professionals can be important throughout my career. The longer I’ve had internships, the more I know how easy it is to stumble into potential ethics blunders. As a new professional it’s so important to have mentors who have been in the field longer than I have so I they can guide me along the way and help me spot potential crises. It doesn’t matter how old or experienced you are—there’s always more to learn.

I look forward to a lifelong journey of learning, experiencing and blazing trails. Graduation is only the beginning!

Advertisements

Preparing to A.C.H.I.E.V.E.

IMG_8575This year I attended my last PRSSA National Conference. Although I’m excited to graduate and enter the real world this May, it was bittersweet to leave Philadelphia knowing that it was the last time I’d attend Conference as a student.

During the awards dinner on the last night we were all given a note card that says, “today’s preparation determines tomorrow’s achievement.” On the back is an acronym for A.C.H.I.E.V.E., which I think is an excellent summary of the insight shared during PRSSA National Conference.

A is for aspire.

Aspiration has been a main theme of every PRSSA event I’ve attended. Aspire means to align your hopes toward achieving something. PRSSA encourages students to set big goals and chase after them, which is, of course, much easier said than done.

Mary Henige and Mary Beth West are admirable speakers who presented at Conference. These two women are strong role models for pre-professionals and encouraged attendees to stretch further to achieve success. Here are some words of wisdom given during their presentations:

  • Be a life-long learner. I was surprised to see that even West was taking notes when the other panelists were speaking during the Living Legends panel, showing that she embraces that there is always more to learn!
  • Showing up is not enough. Have a roll-up-your sleeves approach to your work.
  • Squeeze everything you can out of college. Learn all you can so you’ll leave with a rounded education.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of reverse mentoring. Just because you’re young does not mean you can’t teach others who are older than you.
  • It’s okay to not know where you’re going, but everything you do should be driven by goals.
  • Quality of experience not quantity (salary). A person of initiative doesn’t sit back and get frustrated about something, they change it. – Mary Heinigie
  • Applying for jobs is scary. Don’t let that stop you.

 “Don’t create obstacles for yourself- stop thinking of yourself as a woman. Think of yourself as a professional” – Mary Beth West

It all comes down to the fact that it’s not someone else’s job to prepare you for your career. College is the best time to start your legacy of initiative and integrity.

C is for challenge

Brian Solis, Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group presented on  learning how to #LeanForward

Brian Solis, Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group presented on learning how to #LeanForward

One of my favorite parts of PRSSA National Conference is sitting in on PRSA ICON sessions. This year Brian Solis presented on leaning forward. Although my generation grew up with social media, I know it will not stop with what we have now. Social media is always changing and what’s “in” today won’t necessarily be “in” tomorrow. It’s important to embrace change and avoid pulling back, because brands that embrace change are the brands that stay relevant to consumers

Social media has a reputation of being narcissistic, but when social media is done well, it’s not about me, or the brand I’m representing. The A.R.T. of social media is actions, reactions and transactions. We live in an age where brands are now people and people are now brands. How can we leverage this as PR professionals?

Here is a Storify summary of the Twitter conversations revolving around Solis’ lecture.

 “Humbly recognize there’s more to learn. Learning helps us lead and learning brings about change.” – Brian Solis #LeanForward

H is for hope

When I was a kid I didn’t think twice about how fortunate I was that I could read. The PRSA ICON presentation by John Wood, who explained how a library card could be the passport to a better life, was very inspiring. Wood is very passionate about making education accessible to boys and girls all over the world. In fact, he is so passionate about this mission that he quit his job at Microsoft to develop his nonprofit organization, Room to Read, from scratch.

I was deeply touched by this man’s passion and willingness to take a risk. He taught that bold goals attract bold people and that hope can go a long way. He encourages attendees to strive for more than just small-scale leadership. “Don’t be the leader of an organization,” he said. “I want to be one of many leaders of a global movement.”

As a future professional it’s important to have big, hairy audacious goals (B.H.A.G.S.) and learn to have hope in what might seem impossible.

“An entrepreneur is someone who does something with resources not yet acquired.” – John Wood, Room to Read

I is for insight

Kingsford Coal's data-driven campaign included sending a special visitor to the nicest social media user. Clever!

Kingsford Coal’s data-driven campaign included sending a special visitor to the nicest social media user. Clever!

Insight is a key asset for job seekers to leverage themselves as an asset to a public relations team. Valuable hires come into a company ready to put their knowledge to work for a company or a brand. In a session on analytics and big data led by Adam Singer, Shonali Burke and Deidre Breakenridge, we learned a few of the ways data is used in real-world applications:

  • Use data to tell stories with visual representations.
  • Use data to pitch- No one likes receiving pitches that are not based on factual evidence.
  • Use data to influence strategy decisions.
  • Use data to predict future outcomes.

One of the best examples given was for crises. Data can help make responses more efficient and can even save lives. Another good example discussed was the clever campaign created for Kingsford Coal, which involved sending Santa to visit the nicest social media user. The lucky winner in the photo (left) was found through data-driven research. The number of times he said, “thank you” and “please” on social media were monitored and his politeness was recognized. Who knew good manners could help you win a visit from Santa?

Here are some of the basic tools PR students can familiarize themselves with, suggested by Adam Singer from Google:

E is for enthusiasm

Of the many areas in PR, agency life was emphasized in the sessions at Conference. Juggling life at an agency is often challenging for new professionals that are employed at agencies right after college.

New professionals are typically younger, unmarried and can handle more stress than employees that have been in the workforce for a longer period of time. Because of this, they are often pushed to accomplish more. Every professional is faced with the challenge at one time or another to decide their limit and maintain the work-life balance that works for them. In addition, if you’re enthusiastic about your job it won’t feel like work, but if you dread going to the office, it might be time to try something new.

Members of the panel included Jessica Noonan of Burson-Marsteller, Joe Clarkson of Taylor Strategy and Nick Lucido of Edelman Public Relations. Here are a few tips they shared during the panel discussion:

  • Have an outlet for creativity and fun. Too much work will inevitably lead to burnout.
  • Don’t work hard; work smart. Working inefficiently is actually a disservice for your clients.
  • Love what you do, because if you’re in it for the money, you’re in for a let-down.

“Be nice to people. The PR world is very, very small and your relationships can help or hurt you.” –Nick Lucido, Edelman Public Relations

V is for voice

There was a special session for Chapter presidents on the first night of Conference. Cassandra Bailey, principal at Slice Communications in Philadelphia shared her wisdom on the importance of uniqueness and drive. She advised students to embrace personal branding as a chance to show authenticity and individuality.

Here are some of her key points:

  • Ideas, time and insights are the currency of PR agencies. What values do your ideas have over those of other agencies?
  • Your personal brand should be unique as a fingerprint. What’s unique about you? How can you communicate this with others?
  • There is inherent value in being different. How can your voice be distinguishable in the sea of noise?

“There is inherent value in being different.” –Cassandra Bailey

E is for enjoy

With all the sessions and presentations at PRSSANC and PRSA ICON, luckily I found some time to enjoy Philadelphia. I ate a Philadelphia cheese steak (Two, actually. We found a place called Zio’s that was so we good we had to come back again before leaving the city), visited LOVE park, saw the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and even made some new friends.

This post would be incomplete without photos from the trip!

If you are a PR student I highly recommend joining PRSSA and attending National Conference. Although it’s expensive, attending events helps you meet speakers and other PRSSA members that will help you learn and grow as a future professional. I am so thankful I joined this organization as a sophomore journalism student and that I invested as much as I have so far. I know what I’ve learned and the connections I’ve made will help me succeed as a professional in the pubic relations industry.

View my PRSSANC Recap presentation for UNT PRSSA on Prezi.