This week is chock full of high-profile ethics issues. I can’t wait until I start teaching my PR Ethics course again at Boston University in less than a month as we will have great discussions on these and other issues. Some highlights (or lowlights) include the ethical use of money, bad behavior and inspiration from Marilyn Laurie, the first female CCO.
- The NRA and ethical use of money – Keeping politics out of this (which is hard), but the New York Attorney General is investigating a non-profit for three serious ethical (and legal) issues:
- Diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership. [How an organization uses funds is a question every communicator should ask their leadership as it deals directly with reputational the legal risk to the organization. From Enron to this, examples abound]
- Awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family [There is a reason PRSA and most professional associations have a conflict of interest clause in their codes of ethics]
- “Appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.” [A few weeks ago I reported on how Novartis was doing something similar. Brands may fall into this trap, or giving lucrative junkets or gifts.]
- McDonald’s former CEO and bad behavior – Lisa Gralnek, my guest this week, discussed the ethical trap of enabling toxic, abusive high-performers. CBS News and others drive this home over the former McDonald’s CEO, Stephen Easterbrook, who allegedly had sexual relationships with a number of employees. This deals with abuse of power, the inability to give consent and actions that “deviated from our values in different and far more extensive ways than we were aware when he left.”
- A great ethics event tonight – The Museum of Public Relations will be hosting a panel discussion exploring the rise of women in PR, focusing on the life and career of Marilyn Laurie, the nation’s first woman CCO. The panel will explore how students and professionals can learn from Marilyn Laurie’s example, in reputation management, crisis communications, leadership and ethics. You can still register.