Ethics Month Speaker Leaves Us Questioning: "What Would You Do?"

    By James Barnes, Ethics Chair

    During our Ethics Month luncheon, speaker Paula Pedene’s remarks about her experience as a whistleblower were enlightening and sober. During her remarks, the title of the popular hidden-camera TV program hosted by long-time ABC News anchor John Quinones, kept rolling around in my mind, “What Would You Do?”

    As a federal employee with the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Hospital, Navy veteran, and public relations professional, Paula clearly knew and understood her duty and responsibility to report. She “blew the whistle” on incidents of mistreatment and lack of patient care she observed. After following the appropriate steps to report the issues, and then experiencing undeserved retaliation, Paula pursued the formal and legal course of action under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

    What does this mean for fellow public relations practitioners?

    As the Ancient Greek aphorism states – to learn to "know thyself." One of the ways to get to know about your professional attitude and aptitude on moral and amoral issues is to get involved in professional organizations such as your local PRSA chapter. 

    This exposes and educates communication practitioners through thought-provoking issues to help gain incredible insights from people willing to share their experiences and how they managed during personal and professional crisis. As Paula conveyed in her presentation, being a whistleblower not only impacted her professional life but also her personal life. Her family was not spared the fallout from the crisis.

    While most public relations professionals may not deal with a crisis as significant as whistleblowing, they will experience a crisis of the conscience at some point in their careers. It’s important to not only understand how these issues occur but how to handle them and where to go for resources and support. 

    As Paula attested, the best defense during her ordeal was and continues to be truthfulness and integrity. These attributes are embodied in the PRSA Code of Ethics which helped her and can help you when troubled waters flow your way.

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