Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ad Folks Lack Ethics and Woe is Us?

In the current issue of Jack O'Dwyer's newsletter he writes of a study on "ethical reasoning" completed by two professors - Lee Wilkins of the Missouri School of Journalism and Renita Coleman of Louisiana State. The study examines the ethical reasoning of journalists and advertising professionals. In the ethics scores the professors gave to multiple professions journalists fared better than ad folks, but their scores are nothing to write home about.

Amusingly, journalists had slightly higher scores than dentists. I guess next time I deal with a tough reporter and it feels like a root canal I'll respect them more!

More interesting was that ad folks (who scored 31.64 on the professors' scale) slightly edged out business school undergraduates (who scored just 31.35). Aren't students supposed to be more idealistic than paid professionals launching an ad campaign?

Something is broken here folks. If we expect things to get better any time soon things better start improving in the classroom and not just the boardroom. And in between, too. Business must make it its mission to teach and reinforce ethical behavior from the day an employee walks in the building. That goes for all businesses, but especially for public relations professionals.

The professors' study did not include PR folks. I'm sort of afraid to see what the score might be, but I try to be optimistic. According to Jack's report the professors can update us with their take on ethical reasoning among PR professionals for a mere $10,000. That's not a big amount, but sadly I think we already know our scores wouldn't be something to be proud of - wouldn't it be better to spend that $10,000 towards a real ethics program for the profession?

I don't think we have a choice.