Our ethics are what get us from place to place. Sales and marketing in general have an unfortunate reputation. “Shady used car salesman.”
So I wanted to talk a bit about ethics. Ethics are extremely personal, so I’m going to talk about my ethics. Some of you will probably nod along, some will think I’m too strict, some will think I’m not strict enough. Ethics lie behind some of my policies (others are the result of things which have actually happened over the years).
My ethics center around three basic concepts:
- All companies serve two purposes. They have to make money for their people. They also have to serve a social purpose and in some way make the lives of their customers better. For example, when I write a novel, I am striving to give enjoyment to my readers, which makes their lives better. A wellness company that sells supplements is, or should be, striving to help people work or play harder and stay healthier. A roofing company is making people’s lives better because their roof doesn’t leak.
- Honesty is important. There is a difference between a positive spin and a lie. Marketing is about bragging, to some degree. But you don’t make false claims about what your product can achieve. You should be able to market off of true claims. Sometimes it’s as simple as “This may” as opposed to “This will” on a claim.
- Doing the best job you can matters. This goes for me. It also goes for my clients.
I have turned work down because I did not feel the company and product served a social purpose, or at least not a positive one. I once turned down a request to write a blog post on how to find a sex worker in Dubai (potentially endangering the reader). I have refused work from payday loan brokers.
I also want my clients to be honest. I no longer want anything to do with a former client having found out their product did not actually do everything they claimed. We’re talking software features persistently not working.
And as far as I can tell, I want my clients to be competent. I can’t always tell, but if I’m working with a website designer and all their sites are cookie cutter, not accessible, and boring enough to put me to sleep.
So, what does this mean if you are hiring a writer? First of all, choose one who has ethics! I recently heard of an incident where somebody switched to a cheaper writer and the new person made false and illegal claims (this was a supplement company, they have to be real careful), and potentially got them sued.
Make sure the writer has ethics and understands your ethics as well as any legal requirements in your industry. Lay down the rules in the initial consultation and remind them regularly, especially if they are less experienced or new to the niche.
Second of all, consider your social purpose and why people would be proud to work for you. You should be doing this anyway. I work in the HR/work culture niche and you need to understand your social purpose and instill it into your employees.
Third of all, be honest. Don’t ask your writer to make claims…and don’t make claims…that you know aren’t true. Don’t knowingly sell people a lemon.
And lastly, do the best job you can do.
Come to think of that, these are pretty much the rules for running a business. My other product is my books. I don’t make false claims about them. I say they’re good, which is subjective, but I don’t say there are steamy sex scenes in the romance series (there aren’t). I understand the social purpose they serve. And I create the best quality I can.
But when hiring a writer, make sure they know your ethics. And make sure they understand your product or service. Tell them about what you do, tell them the social purpose you believe it serves. Communicate with us on what your ethics and goals are and we will do a much better job for you.