Decision-making is inevitably a big part of every professional’s life. Some decisions do not require a second thought, while others could set a new positive or negative tone for your business. There is no question that ethics is the foundation not only for public relations, but also for all business relations.
Dave Senay, the president and CEO of FleishmanHillard, once said, “PR plays a noble role in society.” A company’s permission to operate, he said, must be protected internally by its authorities and employees with every decision made.
Decisions, however, do not always fall into clear-cut “yes” and “no” categories. Ethics can be messy and blurry, and it can be difficult to know what to do at times. As a marketing and public relations firm with a wide breadth of clients, our professional opinions are consistently solicited by clients. They are expecting us to provide them with a solid recommendation on how to work through or respond to what might be considered “messy” or “blurry.” In these situations, we always turn to the tried and true “front page test.”
The front page test entails asking yourself if you, as a reader of a newspaper, would agree with the decision you are making if it were printed on the front page of said newspaper. If you are, you are clearly comfortable with your decision. If you would not be able to defend your decision if it showed up on the front page or would be embarrassed by what was printed, we highly recommend you rethinking your communication strategy about the issue at hand.
If you feel that an action might be shady, it probably is. Listening to your intuition when it comes to ethical dilemmas usually yields the right decision.
At the end of the day, after all the people you deal with as a business owner, all you have is your name. If you are not 100 percent comfortable with your name being associated with a particular decision, it is best to think twice. As a public relations agency, we recommend protecting your name and reputation above all.