In the past few months we have seen the importance of communication to helping people at a time of crisis. It can support the immediate response and preserve and protect life. It can show people the right thing to do. It can help them through the intense pressure and uncertainty caused by a crisis.
The impact of communication is not just at a time of crisis although here is where it is more obvious. Public relations and communication will touch people’s lives even when they don’t realise it. They see messages every day, listen to the media and see organisations through what is shared. It is why the PR industry bodies, including the CIPR and PRCA in the UK, have put such a strong focus on ethics and ethical behaviour in recent years.
When I was asked to sign up to the World Communications Forum Association (WCFA) Tenets of Responsible and Ethical Communications it was a simple answer. Yes. The more we can do to raise the issues, encourage people to talk about them, highlight the positive behaviour and squeeze out those practices that fall short the better. If one PR officer or communication professional acts inappropriately it doesn’t just impact on them, it impacts on everyone working in the industry.
If I try to explain to people what I do they will often liken it to either Malcolm Tucker (The Thick of It) or Edina Monsoon (Absolutely Fabulous). The reality is my work has never been anywhere near either of those stereotypes. The more we can talk positively about the work of communication, the more people will understand and hopefully we can see improvements in recruitment.
The Tenets have simple messages within them including that truth, transparency and integrity should be the foundations for communication, and that communicators should be signed up to a professional code of conduct.
In the middle of a pandemic you could ask why we need to be concerned with statements about responsible and ethical communication? But the time in lockdown has shown us the importance of tackling fake news, inappropriate behaviour and unethical practices. When you are dealing with the high stakes world of crisis communication it can be the difference between survival or not both as an individual and a business.
The approach by the WCFA also emphasises creating a global communications community and Covid-19 is helping us to do that. Since the end of March I have had more conversations with people working in communication and PR from outside of the UK than ever before. When we talk Covid-19 has helped us feel connected and there is a shared language. It is something I want to build upon as we move through the crisis and hopefully start to reach recovery. Thank you to the WCFA and its President Maxim Behar for giving me the opportunity to sign up.
If you are interested in the Tenets of Responsible and Ethical Communications and who has already signed up to it, you can find it here http://www.wcfaglobal.com/initiatives/11/tenets-of-responsible-and-ethical-communications
Let me know what you think of the Tenets and what elements are most relevant to you.