Let’s face it, the world is awash in lies and half-truths. In this media-saturated age, we all have access to an unlimited number of information sources and, heck, can disseminate our own views without supervision. Even public communication is an ocean of misinformation in which leaders in all sectors have lost the public’s trust.
Nowadays, integrity in public communication – the determined effort to communicate honestly and ethically, using facts or forthrightly acknowledging opinion – is increasingly rare. Communications channels and platforms containing a torrent of half-truths and outright lies shape the world view of countless millions. In America, this has resulted in large portions of the population who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, and others who believe the participants of the January 6 assault on the Capitol should be considered patriots.
The Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication’s mission is evident from its name. I’m proud to be affiliated with it. We are fighting the good fight by funding research about the mechanisms of communications done with integrity and by shining a spotlight on people who demonstrate this particular strength. We want to support and inspire working professionals and students to insist on honesty and truthfulness in all that they do.
Last week, The Center recognized Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Anchor at CNN; Ken Chenault, former CEO and chairman at American Express; and Andy Polansky, CEO of IPG Dextra and Executive Chairman of Weber Shandwick, awarding them the Larry Foster Award for Integrity in Public Communication. The event included interviews with each recipient. Here’s a sampling of comments made by the awardees:
Christiane Amanpour on prioritizing truth over balance in reporting:
“I know we (journalists) are not the Enemy of the People. We're exactly the opposite. We're their best friends because we're there to stand up for them to tell their stories and to tell it truthfully, and not to play this bad and wrong game of either moral equivalency or ‘both-sides-ism’ in terms of journalism. The truth is the truth; and I know that's an unpopular and increasingly endangered concept right now."
Ken Chenault on why companies should act on and communicate with a sense of social responsibility:
“Corporations exist because society allows us to exist and we have a responsibility to help build a healthy society.... I think, as a CEO, we want to build enduring companies. If you want to build an enduring company and you're focused on long-term success, you can't ignore what happens in our society…. I think transparency is absolutely essential if you want to be an enduring leader, if you want to capture the hearts and minds of your people.”
Andy Polansky on integrity in public relations agencies:
“To me, the heart of what we do in the public relations profession comes down to relationships. ... What we do as communications professionals is we can be conveners. We can bring people together. We can meet around a table and engage in conversation and solve problems…. In our profession, we're consultants. We're engaged to provide a point of view. Sometimes we have to be the voice in the room to remind our clients and people in our organization to make sure we're living by our values. That's what our job is. We're in the point of view business.”
You can watch all the interviews on YouTube.