This is the first of my communicating better series. As always if there is anything you would like to add, hear me talk about or disagree with feel free to add it to the comments.
We hear a lot about ethics now a day. It has become a bit of a buzz word honestly. But why do we suck so much at communicating ethically? Consultants want you to think it is some magical formula or a checklist you work through before you open your mouth or write a press release. I think it is a little simpler than that. In fact I like my friend @BryanJones’ approach to ethical communication
Communicating ethically is being honest, transparent, and simply being not shady or misleading. That is your magical formula. Sounds easy right? So why do so many companies and individuals struggle with this?
Because it means they would have to work overall harder. Building a relationship on honesty takes a little time and work. If you do it unethical it is easy. It is the difference between going through a drive through and buying a Big Mac or going home and cooking a real meal. The problem is that we want fast and easy. It is easy to build misleading marketing campaigns or sale snake oil. You can sucker anyone into buying once. Many businesses are based on this principle. Be shady, make quick money and then move on. Or take advantage of something, hope you don’t get caught, and deny or run if you do.
This doesn’t work long term though, and now people are getting tired of this. They want an ethical business. That means building a good product or being a good person, then communicating honestly about that. It is hard at first, but once you build a business or a persona on those principles your customers love you.
So here are my steps to communicating ethically
- Be honest, even if it hurts or causes you to lose a customer or friend
- Make a good product – to sell a bad product you have to lie, make a good one to begin with
- Be a good person – don’t mislead people, don’t backstab
- Be transparent – don’t try to hide things just to make your life easier
- Think about it first – another gem from @bryanjones “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”
Each industry or role has specific ethical concerns. Marketing is a little different from PR, B2B is different from consumer products. But the overarching principles remain. Take the time to find what specific ethical principles apply to you. It might take a little more time up front, but you will not suck in the end.