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Accreditation Process Adds Ethics Component.

I ABC's international accreditation council is adding a small step to the accreditation process to help ABC candidates improve their understanding of how the association's Code of Ethics can be applied to practical situations.

Effective immediately, accreditation candidates will be requited to complete an 11-question multiple-choice quiz with their portfolio samples. The quiz will be marked and returned to the candidate with an answer key, but no grade will be recorded.

"When we looked at adding this step to accreditation, we asked ourselves 'what is a passing grade on an ethics test?'," says Rich Ellis, ABC, chair of the international accreditation council.

In developing the quiz, the accreditation council approached IABC's ethics committee for assistance. The ethics committee took up the challenge and developed questions that breathe life into IABC's Code of Ethics.

"When we approached the ethics committee, we were hoping to get their input," said Ellis. "What we got more than exceeded our expectations. And we're grateful to chair Don Bruun, ABC, and the rest of the ethics committee for their assistance. Their efforts will enhance the professionalism of ABC candidates and help them prepare for the written and oral accreditation examinations."

Ethics Primer Questions

Think you know your way around ethical issues? Try your hand at the following questions, which were submitted by IABC's ethics committee but not included in the final 11-question quiz for accreditation. Then turn to the answers on page 8 to see how well you did.

Situation #1

For the past year, in addition to your corporate communication position, you have contributed a column on communication practices to a regional business publication. You have received a letter from an IABC colleague who read a recent column. The letter states that you have included in your column material first published by another author in a professional journal. A copy of the original article is enclosed. You remember reading the original article, but did not consider it actively while writing your column.

You decide to:

A. Send a letter thanking your colleague for the article, but explaining that you did not consider it actively while writing your column.

B. Publish in your next column an attribution of the material, sending a copy of the column and attribution to your colleague and the original author.

C. Ask the business magazine to publish your colleague's letter as a "letter to the editor," with no comment.

D. Do nothing because you did not consider actively the original material in writing your column.

Situation #2

As an employee of a public utility, you frequently have access to pending legislation and draft policy statements. And, in your role, you work with communicators from other government and regulatory bodies. One day, while discussing communication strategies in support of a draft policy statement, you learn that one communicator has provided advance information to a reporter. You also suspect that another has discussed this pending policy statement with a real estate developer, who could potentially benefit from advance knowledge. You decide to:

A. Do nothing because you have not done anything unethical.

B. Report the media leak immediately to your supervisor, saying nothing about the real estate developer.

C. Report immediately to your supervisor the media leak and the situation with the real estate developer.

D. Discuss the situations individually with your colleagues, explaining the potential ethical problems and asking them to address the situations themselves.

Situation #3

Your CEO recently returned from a national convention, very pleased to have had a snapshot taken with a reclusive best-selling author. At the time, your CEO asked the person who snapped the picture to send a reprint for her scrapbook. The photographer obliged. Now it's six months later. The author has published a new novel that's getting great reviews and a lot of publicity. Your CEO insists that you run the snapshot of her with the author in the company newsletter. Do you:

A. Run the photo with a cutline explaining how and when the picture was taken?

B. Explain to your CEO that you need a release from the author to publish the photo?

C. Refuse to publish the snapshot because it violates the author's privacy?

D. Ask the CEO how to get in touch with the photographer for permission to publish the photo?


Situation #1: B. The IABC Code of Ethics stares, "Professional communicators give credit for unique expressions borrowed from others and identify the sources and purposes of all information disseminated to the public." You should publish in your next column an attribution of the material. Sending a copy of the column and attribution to your colleague and the original author is not necessary, but is an honorable action.

Situation #2: D. You should first address the issues individually with your colleagues as they potentially have committed ethical -- and perhaps, legal -- violations. In doing so, your actions will be consistent with Article 6 of the IABC Code of Ethics. Since you do not have all the facts regarding either situation, any other action may place you in a difficult ethical or legal situation.

Situation #3: D. The IABC Code of Ethics requires communicators to obey laws and public policies governing their professional activities, and it is illegal in most countries to publish photos without permission. Even though the snapshot recorded an informal, personal event, the photographer (or his/her employer) still owns the image. If the CEO no longer has information on how to get in touch with the photographer, you cannot legally publish the photo in your newsletter (or, for that matter, on your web site). By the way, the author has no standing in this example. By appearing publicly at the convention, the author has no expectation of privacy.

Eric Bergman, ABC, is senior consultant, Bergman Associates, Toronto
COPYRIGHT 1999 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:corporate communications
Author:Bergman, Eric
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 1999
Previous Article:Letters to the Editor.
Next Article:How to Craft Successful Employee Communication in the Information Age.

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