Copyright 2017

Regulated Hamilton

 

No! Regulation did not prevent the employees of Bell Pottinger from accepting projects like they did in the case of “white monopoly capital”. Bell Pottinger belonged to the PRCA and therefore were bound by their Professional Charter and Codes of Conduct, yet they knowingly brought South Africa to the brink of serious racial conflict and financial disaster.

If we see regulation as a rule by government that regulates behaviour, there should be a body to police the profession, ensuring that rules are kept. Who would that be and what will happen to the trespassers? In the case of Bell Pottinger, which countries’ regulations would prevail? Would it be South Africa or the UK?

If the view is that regulations are “rules designed to control the conduct of those to whom it applies” there should be a controlling body, which we in principle have as the Council for Communication Management. It has no public profile and even less power to address the contravention of its Code of Conduct. We also have PRISA’s own Code of Conduct and Professional Standards, but it’s highly unlikely that Bell Pottinger would pay any attention to sanctions from South Africa.

The reality is that the culture of the business cultivates “Bell Pottinger” behaviour. As communication professionals, our skill is to influence. The essence of business is profit and if the culture of the business is to drive profit, employees will be pushed to take on profitable projects, no matter what.

The solution is not another set of regulations, be it from government or professional associations. The solution is for communication professionals to be very aware of the client brief and the outcomes they want to achieve and to ask themselves whether they want to be party to the project. If their employer expects them to take on the work despite their professional concerns, their own morals, principles and commitment to ethical behaviour should empower them to walk away from the project and even the organisation.

Dr Amanda Hamilton-Attwell CPRP, (D Litt et Phil, ABC), IABC Fellow, Executive Director - Business DNA

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