Every year, as it has since 2001, Edelman releases its annual Trust Barometer, which measures trust in business, media, government and nonprofit sectors. The 2018 version shows that trust by the numbers has plummeted, especially in the U.S.
While trust in journalism showed an increase, according to the research, trust in platforms declined. Consumers include content platforms in their definition of media, Edelman’s research reveals, and fewer trust media than ever before. That lack of trust is due to a perceived or real lack of business ethics, especially in the media.
What Edelman’s study proves is the unfortunate reality that the phrase “business ethics” seems to be an oxymoron today; truth has become optional. Worse, that construct appears to have become the foundation of our current national leadership. That means now, more than ever, taking leadership in business means clearly expressing dedication to ethical business practices, especially in communications.
For me, that goes well beyond a promise not to plagiarize—which of course, is one of my ethical standards. As someone has a history as an advocacy journalism covering events that harm those with little power to fight back, it’s important I bring that same commitment to my content writing business. I only provide communications and content writing services to enterprises that practice high ethical standards. Here’s what that means.
I don’t work with organizations with an egregious history…of anything.
I know this ethical stance is typically (and almost exclusively) associated with Millennials. However, most of them learned this from us—their Gen X parents. Every age group has those whose ethics are dishonorable. I’m not one of those in my generation.
Moreover, this is so essential a part of my core ethical principals, it deserves to be addressed separately. I believe strongly in putting my principals into action.* That includes my commitment to sustainable global entrepreneurship and financial success and not just my own. I believe that begins at home (but I extend this policy to enterprises abroad, too). Just as I wouldn’t invest money in businesses that work against the social good, I won’t invest my talent into such enterprises.
That means I won’t accept work for any organization, particularly a financial institution, that I know has a recent history of significant ethical lapses. That includes major fraud allegations that have gotten substantiated or economic exploitation of any group on the globe.
If a firm has a history of discriminatory hiring, lending, housing or other practices, and any other behavior that is disreputable, I will reject offers of contract work with them. That’s especially true of those that have deliberately harmed communities of color, women, elderly or other unsuspecting consumers or investors—and freelancers, consultants or other gig workers.
Because I work primarily with public companies, I refuse opportunities from those with that don’t practice ESG or better, focus on and implement TSI—Total Societal Impact principals into their business operations from top to bottom.
I also will stop working with any enterprise I learn has engaged in such behavior about which I wasn’t aware when I accepted the work.
If your organization is undergoing a cultural transformation to rectify those grievous practices, that’s outstanding. But, my policy is to wait at least five years before considering working with your enterprise to determine if the endeavor is authentic.
(* Credit for this concept must go to my Georgetown University Change Management Communications professor, Kevin Bubel. A Burston-Marsteller senior leader, he has helped clients do this. I have now adopted the construct for my business activities. I’m close to completing my graduate degree in corporate communications at Georgetown where ethical values are part of the institution’s ethos and are ingrained across the culture. I take them seriously.)
(c) 2018. Get Money Moxie, Inc., a division of Thrive Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
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