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  • Katie Bastiman

Conclusions from Ethics Month

February was Global Ethics Month, which provided an opportunity to investigate the ethical questions associated with public relations and communications roles. It also proved to be a particularly relevant theme given the political developments over the past few weeks.

Ethical Communications on the World Stage

In the CIPR’s statement about the conflict in Ukraine, they noted that ‘As the invasion continues, ethical communications and the sharing of information increasingly play a critical role in shaping the conflict and protecting lives.’

This is a particularly troubling example of the importance of accurate and unbiased communication being allowed to reach its audience. With major social media networks working to stem the damage caused by misinformation, such as Facebook removing a Russian misinformation network pushing fake news about the war (full story here), the grave importance of communicating the truth of the situation is startlingly evident.

Ethics and AI

During February, a number of events were organised by Global Alliance to explore the multifaceted importance of adopting an ethical-first approach to communications through various lenses – one webinar in particular examined the intersection of comms and ethics in relation to AI.

The webinar involved a panel of three speakers (Sine N. Just, Ib T. Gulbrandsen and Mikael Munck) discussing questions ranging from ‘how will AI influence our communications practices?’ to ‘How can we ensure that we are responsible and ethical in our use of these advanced technologies?’

The panel tackled issues including the responsibilities of comms professionals, and how they may change as the technology available to us develops. They also highlighted the need for comms professionals to ensure that they are educating themselves about what is technologically possible within the field so that they can effectively communicate the value that it can bring.

The webinar can be watched here and was accompanied by a three-part article series, ‘AI and Ethics: Implications for Communicators’, written by Alexander Buhmann, Ph.D, and Anne Gregory, Ph.D. These articles assess where we are in applying AI in communication practice; the fundamental shifts that AI brings to organisations as a whole; and key implications of emerging AI-based practices in communications, respectively.

Our Experiences

Crystal PR carried out a survey in February, using social media to ask colleagues and peers ‘How often do you encounter ethical considerations in your role?’ Not a single one of the responses chose to answer ‘Never’, with ‘Regularly’ receiving the most votes at 60%. (‘Sometimes’ and ‘Rarely’ were neck and neck at 20% respectively).

This being the case, it is clearly imperative that resources about how best to prioritise ethical decision-making within comms are being carefully created and widely shared.

The responses to our survey were from marketing, comms and PR professionals at all levels, indicating that we all need to be included in this conversation. By acknowledging that ethical issues do crop up in our work, we can work together to implement tools to deal with them responsibly and confidently. Reflecting on Ethics Month now, it’s an opportune time to think back on just how many ethical considerations you have had to make over the past month – some may be more obvious than others, but the chances are you will have made a few.

Global Ethics Month may be over, but the conversation about ethical practices within comms is far from it, and we are pleased to see that this issue is being treated with the gravity it deserves by professionals all around the world.


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