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Business Ethics: Where Do You Draw the Line?

Maintaining ethical principles in the pursuit of business goals – A Public Relations Perspective

As an independent contractor, my company, PRMR Inc., has the opportunity to work in a variety of industries with diverse groups of clients, including for-profit, not-for-profit, entrepreneurial, regional and international businesses.

In carrying out our business, we are often faced with ethical decisions that may clash with the demands of clients or affect the services that we are expected to deliver. For example, we may be building a website for a client who expects us to use images that have been taken from another site without that site’s permission. After telling the client that we are not willing to do so and explaining why, we are told that other companies that they have worked with had no problem with it. The client implies that in acting with proper business ethics, we are inept and unresourceful.

Important to follow a professional code of ethics
At PRMR Inc., however, we stand fast. As members of the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators, we are bound by a professional code of ethics, which we take seriously, and which forbids the abuse of other people’s intellectual property, be it words, music or images. Of course, some clients are not willing to pay the cost to go down the correct path, and with regard to us requesting permission from other websites, see that as billed time that they do not want to pay for.

As an entrepreneur in the service industry, you have to be very mindful of your time, and of clients who do not value it. With such clients, as soon as you sign on to a project, they immediately assume that all of your time is theirs for the taking. It is important to keep in mind that the only thing of value that you truly have is time, and that you must guard it fiercely. When you are starting out, despite your qualifications, you are forced to bill modestly to get into the game. One of the points that I made to potential clients when I was starting out was that they were getting a supremely experienced practitioner on the job, while established companies would be likely to assign them account executives with very little relevant background.

...to be continued 

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