Writing about ethics does not make it happen.

One of the standard exercises for company public relations people is to write a Code of Business Conduct for the company.  This is written in high flown language and tells the world what a wonderful company your company aspires to become.  Sometimes there is a long distance to travel between the reality and the ethical aspirations.

Having written more than a few of these fairy tale documents over the years, the challenge is to be able to show that the policy is achieving reasonable objectives for the company.  The rule is that if you cannot measure it, why do it?

In public relations, this measurement is usually done each year in a communications research project.  You start with an analysis of your company’s publics.  Publics usually encompass various customer groups, employees, shareholders, competitors, suppliers, trade media, community influences, educational institutions and the list can go on.  You might not be able to do every group every year but there are obvious priorities for study.  And do not ignore an unusual group such as competitors.  If the study is done through a reputable research firm, you will be surprised what your competitors can tell you.

It is also important to recognize that communications research is also useful to other departments.  Human resources needs to know how their programs are working with both employees and local educational facilities as these groups can have a major impact on the cost of finding future employees.  Sales and services needs to know where their customers stand on the company and how they might improve.  Suppliers, as a public, can save you a great deal of money in manufacturing operations.  And the list goes on.  Knowing where you stand is a huge part of running a successful company.

That is why you sometimes want to ask the senior executives of large companies why they do not take the time to listen.  It makes no sense that a company such as Bell Canada cannot understand the antipathy towards the company in the marketplace.  This is a company that has misused its size and power for too long.  It is a company with a grandiose Code of Business Conduct that allows its divisions and their departments to do as they wish.  It is a company that writes its own conditions of doing business without advising its customers.

Some apologists try to alibi Bell because of its size.  Why the size is any kind of excuse is ridiculous.  There is a one-size-fits-all to ethics.  Is not the ethics of a company the responsibility of all employees?

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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