Plank Leaders Discuss Ethics with Scripps PRSSA

By Kelly Lambers | May 2021

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations recently hosted the 2021 Be Like Betsy Challenge in honor of PR pioneer Betsy Plank’s birthday. The challenge encouraged students to learn Betsy’s values and share their knowledge on social media. Alyssa Gormley, incoming VP of chapter development of PRSSA National and Scripps PRSSA member, won this challenge and earned a great opportunity for her chapter at Ohio University. This reward included a roundtable discussion with seven members of the board of advisors of The Plank Center.

The Plank Center board and Scripps PRSSA members met to discuss ethics in the PR field. Wisdom and advice from board members taught students in the Scripps PRSSA chapter how to better approach ethical dilemmas now and within their future careers.

Key Takeaways:

Alicia Thompson, VP of Communication, Randstad USA

  • Helping the internal culture for a specific account at an agency can be difficult. It’s important to consider your agency’s ethical standards and see if they match your account.
  • Diversity within a company is important. Many consumers care about brands and how they act in ethical situations.

Daniel O’Donnell, Communications and Corporate Affairs Leader, Citadel

  • When it comes to ethics, there are not always simple situations. Small things can add up.
  • Knowing what you stand for is important because you never know when you will be put to the test.

Joanne Bischmann, Retired CCO, Harley-Davidson Motor Company

  • Consider that brands may model their understanding of ethical dilemmas after other companies. How you choose to handle a situation may impact the way others choose to handle their own.

Pat Ford, Professional-in-Residence, University of Florida

  • There’s a growing trend of companies realizing they must be involved in ethical issues.
  • Consistency is key. Know the values and purpose when considering how to approach situations ethically.

Rick White, Adjunct Faculty, University of North Carolina

  • “Ethics is a critical part of leadership.” It’s important to be ready for any situation that you come in contact with throughout your career.
  • It’s never going to be black or white. Be comfortable working in that shade of gray.

Ron Culp, Educator and Consultant, DePaul University

  • Ethics are a given. “I don’t give it much thought. I know what’s right and wrong.”
  • Young people must listen carefully and ask questions that lead to ethical understanding and buy in.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself what your mother (or Betsy Plank) would think.

Tony Cervone, Retired Senior Vice President of Global Communications, General Motors

  • We have to lead ethically and be ethical ourselves. Don’t be deceptive.
  • Be the outside voice that helps the organization consider another point of view.
Kelly Lambers is a senior at Ohio University. She is a journalism strategic communication major and the incoming VP of public relations at Scripps PRSSA. She enjoys playing piano, guitar and singing in her free time.

This piece was originally published on Culpwrit, a blog created by Plank board member, Ron Culp.