7.11 Individual Perspective

There is an individual level of responsibility for your own behavior. As a communications professional, you may find yourself confronting conflicting obligations in your daily routine. You will be doing your work in a decidedly ambivalent atmosphere. News professionals are criticized for reinforcing the assumptions of those in power and ignoring reality as experienced by most of the population. Advertising is criticized for contributing to materialism, wasteful consumption, and the corruption of the electoral system. Public relations is criticized for creating and manipulating images on behalf of those with narrow interests, failing to give public interest information a priority.

In confronting your social responsibility using the individual perspective, you are likely to place duty to yourself at the top of the list. You always need to abide by your own moral standards. But this may conflict with more worldly ambitions – desire for recognition, advancement, and financial security. The duty to the organization may be at odds with the loyalty to colleagues or to the profession. Let’s look at a few examples that illustrate these tensions.

Am I Comfortable Working on Advertising for This Client?   

A silhouette of a man with a phone rested on his lips and a question mark in the air

geralt – Untitled – CC0

Individual-level responsibility may arise when ad professionals object to ads they have to work on or have to accept. It is usually not necessary to violate your own standards.

Concerns about taking on an assignment will be something to discuss during the message clarification step. If, for example, you are a strict vegetarian, it may be difficult for you to work on a campaign to sell bacon.

Or let’s say that you are the advertising manager for a local magazine. You receive an ad that you think is offensive, even though the product or service being advertised is perfectly legal and the company is a big advertiser in your publication.

You don’t have to accept that offensive ad, but you also don’t have to forgo the ad revenue for your publication (again, we’re weighing two competing obligations—your obligation to your own standards against your obligation to your media organization to generate revenue).

The way to resolve this dilemma is to call the ad agency and ask for another version of the advertisement. Advertisers almost always have another version in anticipation that some media outlets will refuse to run a potentially-offensive version of an ad. With this solution, you can adhere to your own standards and still generate revenue for your publication by accepting the more appropriate ad.