The Communications Field Confronts Evolving Ethical Standards

Of late, the communications field has been seeking out new rules and standards to acclimate itself to the challenges and complexities brought about from evolving ethical standards. In other words, while certain scenarios in our business may technically be legally permissible, they can simultaneously be morally or ethically questionable.

Research from the European Communications Monitor surveying PR professionals indicates that as many as six out of ten communications managers have been confronted with ethical challenges within the past twelve months. Specifically, communicators working in online communication and social media as well as those specializing in government relations, lobbying and public affairs, tend to be up against moral ambiguity more frequently.

The study homed in on the following three main drivers for the recent increase in moral dilemmas:

  1. Compliance and transparency rules being introduced in many organizations stimulated by new standards of corporate governance and citizenship.
  2. The complexity of navigating social media relationships due to the plethora of communication channels and dearth of protocols. This is particularly prevalent in more advanced regions like Northern and Western Europe.
  3. The international character of communication today which increases awareness of and sensitivity to the values and cultural zeitgeist of emerging markets.

As a result of these formative trends causing increased pressure on communicators to confront difficult moral dilemmas, we must now address questions of how social media complicates moral issues, what strategies should be employed to mitigate these ethical challenges, and how compliance with ethical standards, as compared to business or legal standards, should be enforced in the changing business environment.

This is this second  of a five part series on the European Communications Monitor (ECM), sponsored by Ketchum.  The ECM is one of the largest surveys of communications professionals in the world, run by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA), the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) and Communication Director Magazine, drew data from more than 2000 participants in 42 countries.  View the first post here.