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

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Why I Support the Right of a Business Owner to Refuse a Job

My progressive friends may be shocked. But even though I'm a staunch supporter of gay and lesbian rights, I actually side with the owner of a video duplication service who is being sued for anti-gay discrimination because he refused to duplicate a film on the early gay rights movement.

The service owner, Tim Bono, found the content of the film offensive. I don't happen to share his taste--but I totally agree that he should not be forced to do work that violates his moral code, even if it's quite opposite from my moral code.

When I get an inquiry from a new prospect, I respond with an e-mail that says, among other things,

Please note that I reserve the right to reject a project if I feel I'm not the right person for it. This would include projects that in my opinion promote racism, homophobia, bigotry or violence--or that promote the tobacco, nuclear power, or weapons industries--or if I do not feel the product is of high enough quality that I can get enthusiastic about it.

And yes, I have turned down a few jobs because they promoted ideas I feel are reprehensible--including at least one job I turned down because of homophobia.

I grant Mr. Bono the same right to follow his conscience that I claim for myself, even though we choose to exercise it for opposite philosophies. I would presume that if Lilli Vincenz came to him with a different project that was within his value system, he wouldn't reuse to serve her because she's a lesbian. To refuse her on the basis of who she is would in fact be discrimination, and she'd have every right to bring the Human rights Commission or the courts into the fight. But a principled rejection of her content is a different matter than discriminating against her because of who she is.

No one should be forced to do work that goes against their own conscience.

Friday, May 26, 2006

How Ken Lay Hand-Selected and Funded George W. Bush

Great article by John Nichols in The Nation, outlining all the sordid, seamy connections between Ken Lay and George W. Bush: over $2 million worth.

Do yourself a favor and read it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Skilling and Lay Get What They Deserve

Days like today, you'll hear a lot about how "the system works." Enron fraudsters Kenneth Lay, known to George W. Bush as "Kenny Boy," and Jeffrey Skilling have been found guilty. Lay was convicted on 10 counts, Skilling on 19.

But did the system really work? Why did it take five years to bring these men to justice, during which time they lived a very luxurious life.

Meanwhile, a lot of Enron employees who put their trust in the company saw their retirement wiped out when the stock went worthless. Meanwhile, Californians were faced with brownouts and skyrocketing bills because of the way these men manipulated the state's energy market. And meanwhile, a lot of Enron and Arthur Andersen employees had to find other work.

19th Century British statesman William Gladstone said, "Justice delayed is justice denied." But at least the wheels of justice have turned.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Exploiting the Exploiter: Commenting on Enron Verdict

Last week, at Book Expo America, I attended a panel of NPR producers. I asked how my book on business ethics, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First (published in 2003) could be made timely again for the Enron verdict.

They told me, have something on our desks before the verdict is issued.

So this is what I sent--a different approach to PR:

Expert Commentator: Enron Verdict/Ethics Issues

As a verdict nears in the trial of Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron, business ethics author is available for comment on Enron verdict and other business ethics issues.

Hadley, MA (PRWEB) May 23, 2006 -- As a verdict nears in the trial of Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron, business ethics author Shel Horowitz is available for comment on Enron verdict and other business ethics issues

Suggested Questions to Ask Shel (or choose your own):
* What does this verdict mean for American business? For business worldwide?
* What's the business secret that Arthur Andersen, the company founder, understood--but that the Arthur Andersen accountants who conspired with Enron were clueless about?
* You say 'nice guys don't finish last!' How can a 'nice guy' attitude generate business success?
* How did the Tylenol poisoning scare actually help its manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson?
* Does an ethical attitude matter more in a big company or a small company?

* Award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing that Puts People First (and six other books)
* Founder of the Business Ethics Pledge
* Regular columnist for Business Ethics Magazine
* Speaker on ethics to the Public Relations Society of America International Conference, Publishers Marketing Association University, Folio magazine industry conference, UMass Family Business Center, and many other organizations
* Blogger on ethics issues since 2004
* Host: Principled Profit: The Good Business Radio Show (WXOJ, Northampton MA)
* Frequent interviewee in major print and electronic media (see for detailed list)

Perspective: In the long run, ethics is *good* for business. Ethical, cooperative businesses make more profit, create intense customer and employee loyalty, and have a much better chance of staying out of legal and regulatory trouble. Greed of Enron's senior officials blew apart two companies and had a definite human cost. Specific comments will depend on the verdict.

Commentator Personal Profile: Shel Horowitz, 49, copywriter and marketing consultant. Lives on a working dairy farm in Hadley, MA. Married to novelist D. Dina Friedman; two children.

Shel Horowitz
Office (and best message number): 413-586-2388
Home: 413-584-3490
Email: shel AT (Subject: Ethics Interview Request) (Ethics Pledge)

# # #

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

"Cluck and Awe": Ag Dept. Shills for Iraq War

As a PR professional, I'm often amused by the sheer incompetence of the Bush spin machine--can you say "Brownie, you're doing a heckofa job"?--as well as their desire to micromanage everything in a usually failed attempt to make the president look good. (If the Dems don't make much hay over "Mission Accomplished" in 2008, they're really asleep at the switch.)

But this one takes the cake. Or maybe the wheatfield. Or the henhouse. Today's New York times ran an editorial about--are you sitting down?--a Department of Agriculture talking points memo that provided ways to jump from discussions of American crop issues to what a bully good job the administration is doing in Iraq. The paper used the marvelous headline, "An Agriprop Guide to Cluck and Awe."

And watch out, because the bureaucrats are keeping score:

Included was a caution that speechmakers should keep a record of their compliance, and turn in point-scoring summaries to be tallied for weekly reports to the White House.

And what might some of these talking points be?

  • "Iraqi farmers use U.S. aid to buy American feed and are working to 'update 25-year-old chicken houses'"
  • "'Iraq is part of the 'fertile crescent' of Mesopotamia,' where mankind first domesticated wheat thousands of years ago, this suggestion begins. Then it moves to the clincher: 'In recent years, however, the birthplace of farming has been in trouble.'"

    Clearly the see-no-evils are at it again--and I am one copywriter who's real glad I don't work for this agency!

  • Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    GWB's Best Moment--In His Own Words

    It's not some flaming leftist saying this. George W. Bush himself, according to the Reuters newswire, told a German paper,

    "I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound (3.402 kilos) perch in my lake," he told the newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

    Pretty sad. An administration so disgraceful, so scandal-ridden, such a failure in both policy and operations that even the president can't think of anything he's proud of.

    Georgie, my boy, let me prod your memory a bit--I can think of at least a few proud moments:
  • In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, you made a conscious and I believe sincere effort to distinguish between the terrorists and ordinary Muslims and Arabs. Of course, that didn't stop various government agencies from coming down very hard on those communities, imprisoning people on spurious grounds, etc.
  • In one of your State of the Union addresses, you advocated hydrogen cars--a good thing, if designed in ways that foster sustainability and independence from the big oil companies. I think that was the same year your State of the Union speech honored Rosa Parks, who was in the audience.
  • And finally, in the very recent past you've said we must end our oil addiction. I'd like to think you're sincere about that, and that you'll follow up that statement with a significant infusion of R&D money into solar, wind, geothermal, even biodiesel (but not nuclear, for heaven's sake). In the nearly two years left in your administration, you could go down in history as the president who solarized America--a rather better legacy than catching a fish!

  • Your real legacy to date, however, is a lot less positive. To bring up just a handful of the many, many low points:
  • Lying repeatedly to get us into a stupid, stupid war in Iraq
  • Leaving New Orleans to drown
  • Doing nothing to prevent 9/11 even though evidence strongly suggests the attack was widely known, in advance
  • Overseeing an administration dogged by corruption, mismanagement, venality, yes-man-ism, and unwillingness to listen to critical voices
  • Turning over public resources for private gain
  • Squandering both the reservoir of international good will following 9/11 and the considerable surplus you inherited

  • And on and on it goes--this list could continue for pages. We've had presidents who were outdoorsmen before, including both Roosevelts and Ronald Reagan, among others. But never a president who felt his best moment in office was catching a fish!

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Publishers Running for Office

    This is an oddity: I know four people running for non-local office this year--and three of them are from the publishing world.

    Jeeni Criscenzo, self-publisher of a lovely novel about Mayan civilization, running for Congress in California

    Sander Hicks, whom I interviewed several Book Expo Americas ago--and who courageously published a critical biography of Geroge W. Bush after St. Martin's pulled it off the market under apparent pressure from the Bush family--running in New York on the Green Party for Senate against Hillary Clinton

    Tony Trupiano, media trainer who moderates the teleseminar series from publicity firm Annie Jennings PR, and who is himself an author, running for Congress in Michigan

    (The fourth is my cousin-in-law, Aaron Klein, running for a seat in the Maryland Legislature. )

    Isn't that weird? Even weirder--I heard about all four of these campaigns from other people, and not directly from the candidates.

    It will be interesting to see what happens when media figures become political figures. Let's hope we have better results over here than the Italians got with Berlusconi. Of course, we've had media politicians before--but most of them have been move stars, like Ronald Reagan and Clint Eastwood. Small-press publishers and their consultants are a rather different animal.

    West Pointers Get Cease & Desist Letter From West Point

    A group of US Military Academy alums formed a group called West Point Graduates Against The War.

    These distinguished alums of West Point specifically cited the lessons they learned as students in the Academy and announced specifically that the new group's purpose is (quoting form the press release)...

    To convert the disgrace of governmental lies and evasions about the assault on Iraq into a force to redeem the honor of their country. At issue--which directly assaults the West Point honor code which forges the character of all graduates--are the falsehoods by administration officials, culminating in Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations on February 5, 2003, which catapulted the United States into a preventive war.

    "This fraudulent war has done such enormous damage to the reputation and prestige of the United States and its military forces," said co-founder James Ryan. "Unless remedied, this will prove catastrophic to our country's interests over the longer term."

    "The West Point honor code, which mandates cadets will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do, defines honor and duty," said Joseph Wojcik, co-founder of West Point Graduates Against the War. "And this provides us with a lifelong sense of duty, a shared responsibility for graduates to do the right thing, even if that means admonishing our country's leadership."

    Can you believe this? West Point Graduates Against the War received a cease-and-desist letter directly from the Academy, demanding that they remove the term, "West Point"; the use of the terms...

    "West Point", "United States Military Academy", "USMA", and "U.S. Army" without the express permission of the Department of Army [sic] constitutes a violation of Title 17 of the United States is deeply important to protect the valuable trademarks that enhance the image and standing of the United States Military Academy in [sic] the national and world stage."

    The group, in its public response, points out that businesses such as West Point Pizza, West Point cleaners, and the West Point Motel all operate nearby. And that they, as legitimate grads of West Point, should have every right to use the name.

    West Point is far more than some mere product or "valuable trademark" to us. What is deeply important to us is the "image and standing of the United States Military Academy." This is precisely what we members of West Point Graduates Against The War are trying to uphold. Our organization's opposition to the policies of the Bush administration promotes the very Constitutional First Amendment rights all military officers swear to protect and defend.

    To these courageous veterans, I have only a one-word response: Bravo!