Trust in media and business is not high, according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, and public relations practitioners are usually stereotyped as unethical hacks attempting to clean up the image of a person or organization that has done something bad. Yet every communication organization — IABC included — has a code of ethics that is designed to set the bar for ethical behavior by its members.
New tools and technologies present a host of opportunities for ethical entanglements. Misinformation spreads through social media, sometimes pushed along by leaders of companies. The ability to create deepfakes quickly and easily poses another ethical dilemma. Forty percent of European communication professionals have never participated in any kind of ethics training, yet 65 percent of them say they encounter one or more ethical challenges in their day-to-day work, according to the 2020 European Communication Monitor.
In this lively panel discussion, four IABC Fellows explored the current ethical challenges facing communicators, discussed the role a code of ethics can (or cannot) play, and talked about how individual communicators can impact the public perception of PR and business through their own ethical behaviors.
About the panel
Todd “Tosh” Hattori — Leveraging 20+ years of leading in-house communication functions within a variety of organizations and industries, Tosh shifted his career focus toward helping organization leaders address business challenges by setting and implementing organizational excellence strategies. He is currently the continuous improvement lead for F5 Networks where he applies Lean Six Sigma methods to collaborate with cross-functional teams to eliminate waste and establish consistencies that deliver exceptional employee and customer experiences. Tosh also serves on the volunteer board of directors for the Technology Access Foundation, a national model / leader in providing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to students of color; and improving diversity, upward mobility, and retention of teachers-of-color in Washington.
Jane Mitchell’s career began at the BBC in London on live TV programs. She moved on to producing award-winning films and videos for public and private sector organizations and developed groundbreaking employee engagement programs. Since 2006 when she formed her own consultancy, she now guides organizations, (some of which have experienced cultural trauma), with embedding values and ethics through understanding culture and leadership and their link to high-performing sustainable organizations. She has worked with Top 100 companies across the world, is a regular conference speaker and writer, and is a Director of two highly successful UK-based agencies. Jane has been a member of IABC since 2008 and has had the privilege of serving on local, regional, and International IABC Boards. She was Chair of the 2021 World Conference and was awarded the honor of IABC Fellow in March 2021.
Barbara Puffer, MA, ABC, IABC Fellow, is the author of the Business Communications Ethics chapter of IABC’s new book, IABC Guide for Practical Business Communication. While first setting out as a journalist, Barbara quickly changed her path to the corporate side. Her communications management career spans 47 years, including work in banking, insurance, and telecommunications organizations. She has consulted as Puffer Public Relations Strategies for more than 20 years and previously was Corporate Communications Manager at Barnes Group for 13 years. While consulting, she was also associate professor of communication studies at UMUC University of Maryland University College (now called UM Global Campus) for 13 years, where communications ethics was integrated throughout the curriculum. In IABC, she has served as chairperson of the Ethics Committee and Research Foundation, among other leadership positions.
Jennifer Wah, MC, ABC, has worked with clients to deliver ideas, plans, words and results since she founded her storytelling and communications firm, Forwords Communication Inc., in 1997. The company operates as a strategic alliance of hand-picked professionals; all renowned for work in their areas of specialization. This approach means the right team is assembled for each project; no more, no less. With more than two dozen awards for strategic communications, writing and consulting, Jennifer is recognized as a storyteller and strategist. She has worked in industries from healthcare to financial services to academia, and is passionate about the opportunity for stories to inspire actions and reactions within organizations.In 2013, Jennifer was named Associate Faculty of Royal Roads University, and in this capacity, continues to teach, coach and mentor others with an interest in business communication.