Ethics as a Prediction? No. It’s a Core Value.

January 9, 2020

Happy 2020 to all of our No BS blog readers. Entering a new year (and this time a decade), we’re always inundated with predictions for the next 12 months.

My favorite stories, however, are the ones that look back to see if the previous year’s headline-grabbing predictions were correct, or totally off base. In early 2019, I wonder if anyone accurately forecasted the chaos that ensued with high profile unicorns such as WeWork. Looking back now, it’s a safe bet that a focus on sound business fundaments vs. an all out focus on growth will be a hot topic in 2020.

In reading through various 2020 predictions for the PR and communications industry, one idea keeps jumping out at me: “ethics are becoming more important.”

Wait, what? Rewind that statement. Hasn’t ethics in communications always been vitally important? Is this really a prediction? To me, this is a non-negotiable value that should be at the core of everything we do as PR and communications professionals.

Part of the problem may be cemented in the way PR practitioners have been portrayed over the years. Spin doctors. Flacks. These labels may likely sound familiar to you. Journalists who leave the profession to practice PR are said to “go over to the dark side.”

Then, you have your PR blunders like Spotify’s agency sending USB drives to reporters saying “you’ve just been hacked,” to promote a new security podcast. And Facebook’s silence and ultimately slow response around the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Our profession has clearly not done itself any favors. But as in most situations, a few bad actors blemish the reputation of all—including the good—players.

Most of us in this field are passionate storytellers. We must remember that storytelling is ultimately about revealing truths.

This year, let’s take a pledge to stop talking about the increasing importance of ethics in PR and make it the center of our profession—where it should have been all along.

-Karli Barokas, CEO

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