Ethical and Legal Norms in Communications

On September 22nd at The Baltic PR Weekend 2011 forum, the Russian Communications Consultancies Association (АКОS) led a round table discussion entitled «Legal and Ethical Standards in Communications. International and Russian Practice». During the debate, leading experts recognized the importance of correspondence with regard to ethical standards and to legislative and industrial restrictions. Experts noted the importance of knowledge of international rules, such as the USA’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), in work with public authorities and officials and Sarbanes-Oxley in financial communications. Elena Fadeeva, General Director of Fleishman-Hillard Vanguard, chairwoman of АКОS acted as moderator of the round table.

The President of The International Public Relations Association (IPRA) Richard Linning began the discussion. In his report on ‘Modern Standards of Ethics and Transparency in Communications’ Richard spoke about the nature of PR. Interpreting it as a process, Mr. Linning focused attention on the fact that this sphere carries out a social function and possesses social responsibility.

‘We as PR experts should be responsible not only for the content of a replicated and broadcast message, but also for the consequences which this message will cause», the expert noted.

The topic of ethics and legal norms in communications was continued by Elena Fadeeva, General Director of Fleishman-Hillard Vanguard, and chairwoman of АКОS. Elena spoke to the audience about PR and GR campaigns of American corporations in Russia which conform to the requirements of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). In 1977, the USA passed the law, which is still in operation, to counteract foreign corruption practices and which imposes certain obligations on American companies in different countries. The law stipulates huge fines and imposes criminal liability on the company’s top management if it is infringed.

«The experts working in the sphere of communications should be familiar with this document as within the limits of GR they have to work with different officials, whose activity is regulated by this law», – Elena Fadeeva noted.

The speech of Tatyana Galkova, Director of Communications of Sanofi, was devoted to the ethics of communications in the pharmaceutical industry. In Tatyana’s words, the pharmaceutical branch is the most rigidly regulated sphere concerning communications. The Pharmaceutical industry is regulated by laws on advertizing, laws on the referencing of medical products, the branch codes of ethics and also corporate ethical codes.

«In our sphere the audience and the subject require precise definitions, reliable information and communications to be delivered in the correct tone», – Tatyana Galkova underlined.

Elizaveta Fetisova, Head of Direct Communications of “Vimm-bill-Dann” devoted her report to the «Rodniki Rossii» brand.  Elizaveta told the participants and round table listeners about a new, fourth generation of branding, where a buyer and a brand unite for a certain socially-significant purpose. The «Rodniki Rossii» brand project named “Let’s Help Nature Together” became an example of such branding.

Continuing a theme of international legal norms, Vladimir Tutkevich, General Director of CFA Association (Russia), spoke about conflicts of interest and the problems of shareholder control in public companies, using an example of Sarbanes-Oxley law.  Director of training and Development of Ogilvy Group Netherlands, Vim van Melik, connected concepts of ethics and reputation, noticing that honesty and openness can increase sales by 50% and more.
The theme of international legal practice was mentioned by Lyubov Gurova, Partner, reputation management company «Rajhlin and Partners».  She devoted her speech to modern ethical standards of lobbying, using Germany as an example and speaking about the cooperation of German lobbyists.  She also drew attention to the differences in relations between lobbyists in Germany and Russia. The report of Oleg Soloduhin, vice-president of КРОS, finished the round table. Oleg spoke on a theme of ethical competition for state tenders.   He spoke about the differences between 94-FL, which regulates the procedure of carrying out state purchases, and the Federal contract system – the bill which should replace the aforementioned 94-FL.

The Russian Communications Consultancies Association (АКОS) was founded in 1999 as a fundamentally new type of union for the Russian public relations market and has united the most respected and reliable independent players in Russian PR. At the moment AKOS consolidates 31 first-rate Russian PR-consultancies, whose common market share exceeds 50 %. Collectively AKOS members employ more than 1500 PR specialists.