Ethics has been a hot topic of discussion for years across most professions and industry sectors.
The hyper-fast communication era that governs our lives today has cast an even brighter light on the topic.
But exactly what are we talking about – beyond the generalities of “doing the right thing” – when we discuss ethics in today’s communications era?
Honesty and Transparency
Most thought leaders and observers agree there are – at the very least – two non-negotiable points of entry to ethics in today’s communications climate: honesty and transparency.
However, as the speed of getting stories and messages to market has accelerated to satisfy our obsessively instantaneous mindsets, it seems honesty and transparency run the risk of being afterthoughts.
Adding a dose of complexity to this is the new “radical world of transparency” many feel we are now in where public expectations for absolute complete and unfettered details on every and any action has become a new norm.
The other side of this coin is that in today’s communications climate, a reputation for sound and consistent ethics can be a priceless asset able to distinguish brands, corporations, not-for-profits, governments, politicians and individuals. This is because of three prevailing trends:
Millennials, who represent the most influential generation of the century, place ethics high on their list of priorities in terms of where they choose to work, how they choose to shop, and who they choose to vote for.
In this generational environment, a personal, professional or organizational reputation for questionable ethics can be lethal to success and indeed very difficult to shake off.
2, Social Media Makes Ethics a Constant Dialogue
The digital arena can take a juicy story of perceived unethical practices and swirl it throughout the world instantly. Indeed social media has proven it has an insatiable appetite for stories of dubious behaviour.
This 24/7 online conversation about real or perceived ethical lapses places the topic of ethics squarely and continuously in the public consciousness.
3, Political World has Triggered an Ethical Obsession
It seems almost impossible to access a news outlet today and not be immersed with headlines about potential wrong doing involving politicians and government officials on all sides of the political spectrum.
Some would argue the news media needs this steady stream of real or perceived scandals to sustain their audiences.
To many observers, what passes for news today is less of forum for balanced information and more a diet of non-stop entertainment, with scandalous storylines providing the fuel to keep the engine running.
Whether one feels the media is simply doing their job in unearthing bad behaviour or flagrantly on the hunt for nasty headlines whether the facts warrant them or not, the result is the same: This steady diet of stories about scandal will keep ethics in the forefront as a hot topic, maybe forever.
Powerful Communications Asset
The undercurrent of all this is that a track record and reputation for honesty and transparency has become a highly valuable asset.
Perhaps more than ever before, an unwavering commitment to ethics needs to be the starting point for all communication tactics and strategies.
There is a big lesson in all of this for tomorrow’s businesses leaders, political figures, celebrities and indeed anyone who needs to engage audiences: The smartest of the bunch will treat honesty and transparency not as nice to haves, but as the price of communicating in today’s rapidly changing world.
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