Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

This blog has moved to:

Get this widget!
Visit the Widget Gallery

If you'd like to get an update when we post new content, please click here to subscribe via RSS or to subscribe by e-mail.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Bullies, Ethics, and Congessional Oversight of the Judiciary

Going a bit off the topic of ethical marketing here, but this is important.

In the schoolyard, if a bully didn't get his way (usually it was a boy, back then), he would "take his toys and go home," ending the game.

Rep. Steve King apparently wants to do the same, only his "toys" are the pillars of American democracy. Threatening to defund the entire court system because you don't like their decisions is schoolboy bullying taken to extreme, and with dire consequences for the careful and elegant system of checks and balances created over 200 years ago. They already have the Executive and Legislative branches, and a big part of the Judiciary, and have had the luxury of a consolidated media empire that has largely forgotten that its role is to question. But apparently, that is not enough for these unpatriotic extremists who would dismantle democracy.

I believe that ethics and integrity and fair play still mean something; in fact, I'm organizing a grassroots international movement to take a stand for ethics in business (at ). And I believe this attempt to undermine one of the three pillars of the federal government utterly fails the sniff test.

I am old enough to remember when Barry Goldwater, who would be decried as a weak and moderate liberal in today's climate, was called an extremist. Rep. King's plan is an attack on the fundamentals of our government, and must not be allowed to proceed.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Ad Nauseum: Chicago Tribune Reporter Counts Ads in Her Life,1,3440153,print.story?coll=chi-leisuretempo-hed&ctrack=2&cset=true

Heidi Stevens, of the Chicago Tribune, kept a diary of the"incidental ads"--that is, excluding the persistent barrage of ads where we expect to find them, such as in TV, radio, newspaper and magazines, store signage, and so forth she encountered in one workday. In a 14-hour stretch, there are dozens--and only an hour of TV in the batch. She finds them in public transit, on the backs of supermarket receipts, even attached to a chain-link fence. In other words, marketing messages are creeping in to ever more parts of our lives.

My guess is that her count, if anything, is low. Ads blast at us in elevators, over in-store sound systems, and on and on. Even in toilet stalls.

It seems some marketers believe that the more competition for mindshare, the louder and more obnoxious and more in-your-face they need to be.

Sorry, folks, but this is a failed strategy. When we deliberately or subconsciously tune you out, you don't make any friends by turning up the "botheration quotient." You just get filed in people's mental spam-blocking filters and crossed off the good list.

Advertising has its place, of course--but that place is not every last surface or sound available. Visual and noise pollution do not lead to a long-term happy customer relationship.

I discuss this trend in my latest book, as well as a number of better alternatives; real branding is about relationships, not intrusion. However, I'm not going to name the book, because I don't want you to think this is one of those hidden ads. It's not--it's just a rant.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

LA Times on Ethics in Government and the Press,1,4171595.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

"If you aren't going to create an ethics committee right, don't create it at all," says Rep. Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia. "Otherwise, it is a great farce on the body, not to mention the American people."

Mollohan's concern is that the US House of Representatives has eviscerated its own ethics rules. While I usually write about ethics in the business sphere, and it seems to me that business has been cleaning up its act, the political dirty tricks seem to get worse and worse with time. We thought Nixon's people were the masters of political dirty tricks--but we hadn't met the late Lee Atwater or Karl Rove, who have "elevated it to a high art"--which is to say, debased themselves to the point where one wonders how they can sleep at night. And the Democrats are not so clean-handed either, as witness some of the dirty pool regarding Nader's presence on the ballot or their lack of willingness to face protestors at the convention (that particular spinelessness extended to both major parties).

This particular chorus of "I didn't do it, or at least you didn't catch me" seems largely to benefit House honcho Tom DeLay, who was up to his ears in ethics problems last year. So now the Committee wants to procedurally sandbag any investigation just by stalling for 45 days. Yuck! DeLay's ethics problems are so widespread that a search for [ethics rules "tom delay" "house of representatives"] (without the square brackets) brings up 12,400 hits on Google, many from within the last few days that the House has been discussing this.

Well, some of us are watching, and we are not pleased.


Lecture by John S. Carroll, Editor of the Los Angeles Times: A remarkably candid, if somewhat rambly, look at journalistic ethics, the importance of disclosing a financial relationship, and the monster Orson Welles created by inventing pseudojournalism with his famous War of the
Worlds broadcast.

I happened to notice this as I was clicking on the above story, and went back to have a look afterwards. I liked it enough that I'm going to ask for permission to put it up on my Ethics Articles page at -- but whether or not I get permission, you can follow the link. (You may have to be registered.)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005 on the White House vs. the Press

Is it a coincidence that so much of the real discourse in the last election took place not in magazines, not in newspapers, but in books? Michael Moore on the Left and the Swift Boaters on the Right were the most visible, though far from the only. There were dozens of books from all over the spectrum on the charts, and they were selling.

This article gives some insight into why so many newspapers and magazines were conspicuously irrelevant. Oh, for the glory days of the 70s when newspapers actually took the idea of news seriously!

Among the most disturbing parts of the article:

[quote begins here] Suskind quotes a senior Bush advisor who dismissed reporters for living in the "the reality-based community." The advisor said, "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."

Separately, discussing the role of journalists, White House chief of staff Andy Card famously told the New Yorker in a Jan. 20, 2004, article, "They don't represent the public any more than other people do. In our democracy, the people who represent the public stood for election. I don't believe you have a check-and-balance function." At the time, Card's blunt assessment was seen as a justification of the Bush administration's policy of keeping the press at arm's length. (Bush held the fewest first-term press conferences in modern presidential history.) It's now clear that while most mainstream reporters were getting stiffed, members of the administration were simultaneously setting up propaganda projects by lavishing the Ketchum public relations firm with nearly $100 million in contracts to "communicate" White House initiatives -- by hiring Williams, shipping out bogus video news releases, and other sleazy schemes -- and waving into the White House an amateur journalist using an alias and working for a fake news outlet. (The bogus video news releases were subsequently slapped down as an illegal use of public funds by the General Accounting Office.) end of quote]

Monday, March 07, 2005

When Should Journalists Not Divulge to the Public?

Fascinating--a look at what a reporter knew that her public didn't know, and whether withholding the story was appropriate. Of course, every journalist makes choices about what to include and what to leave out in a story--legitimate journalistic choices. A major purpose of journalism is to filter a large quantity of raw information into a coherent and digestible story. When I work as a journalist, I usually have far more information than I can include in (for instance) a 500-word story. But when the choice is not to do the story in the first place, or to do it and leave key information out of the discourse, many ethics questions come into play. Especially if a government or corporate source wants the material held or permanently suppressed.

One of the things I found especially useful in this article is author Kelly McBride's list of six criteria for when to hold and when to divulge, at the very end of the piece.

Criterion #1:
"First figure out where the information came from. Anything that can be found in a public record, anything that is voluntarily revealed by witnesses or is observed first-hand by a journalist should be considered fair game."

Click the link above if you'd like to see #s 2-6.