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    NevOn is the archive weblog of Neville Hobson, a British business communicator based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, a record of commentary and conversations from December 2002 until 22 February 2006. This site is no longer updated - please visit www.nevillehobson.com.
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2006 Public Speaking

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20 January 2005



Do you think he was being devisive in order to provoke a reaction? To expose something without taking a real stand requires a certain amount of posturing. Then, for others to discuss it openly in the communications industry can be a death knoll for those who earn their big bucks from corporates.

I would like to see someone taking an inventory - or at least opening a reserve to cache the comments - of what the dialogue bubbles to the surface. Curious to see what tracks it leaves behind for us to recognize and how this enthnology emerges.

Neville Hobson

That did cross my mind, Colby. If that was the goal, well, I think it's working judging by the posts and comments that are springing up around the PR blogosphere.

Whatever the motive, Jay Rosen has actually done a good deed in throwing the ethics spotlight firmly on such an issue. Yet I wonder what difference if any it will make when loads of PR bloggers now start discussing this.

I think it presents an excellent opportunity for one of the professional associations to defend ethics in PR. For instance, IABC (of which I'm a long-time and very committed member) has a code of ethics that, in my view, is a benchmark standard anywhere in the world. When you renew your membership each year, you're reminded of your ethical responsibility as a communicator as you have to state your continuing support for and commitment to that code of behaviour.

I wonder if anyone at Ketchum is an IABC member? If so, how does what the people concerned did gel with that code?

I was just reading Ketchum CEO Ray Kotcher's op-ed piece about this affair in the US edition of PR Week, published a week ago. It reads to me like excuses and buck-passing:


Re tracking commentaries, this Technorati search throws up over 800 results so far:


It's often the comments to various posts that produce the most interesting insights, though. Can't see how to track all those, unfortunately.

Glynn Young

The Armstrong Williams issue is only one of a whole series of major PR stories that have been marked by mostly a "deafening silence" -- others include the role of the CBS PR department in Rathergate (it's all in the report) and the LA Water Department overbilling issue (which has now led to indictments, no less).

The big PR trade associations shy away from these kinds of problems, for lots of reasons. But it seems to me that these are absolutely the best "teaching moment" opportunities.


Ran across this, Nev, which seems to be a cache of ethics articles:
All about Public Relations: Ethics

Neville Hobson

Glyn, you're right about the deafening silence. I thought Jeremy Pepper's post on that subject today was a very good take:


As for the PR associations, I am actually surprised that there hasn't been a loud public clamour over this or any of the other issues by one of the bodies that professes to be a guardian of ethics in public relations. But perhaps I'm completely naive.

So, as you say, I expect it will be left to "teaching moment" opportunities to discuss what's right and what's not. Something for the future, at least.

Neville Hobson

That is just great, Colby, thanks. All the codes of ethics, all in one place!

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