Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ethics question

Awhile back, I did some freelance public relations work. I operated under an NDA ("non-disclosure agreement"...oddly, at that point in my life, I had three separate NDA projects where the NDA terms were ambiguous), so I'm going to make this as nebulous as possible.

My client made a certain luxury retail product. It is essentially the most expensive luxury product in the world of its kind. It's somewhat of a niche market, though potentially could be a significantly more mainstream market in the future. My client essentially took someone else's product, marked it up by 2000% and then did some fancy marketing. My client was exposed for this. They decided on a strategy of a carefully-worded non-denial denial. They didn't explicitly deny the allegation (and to be fair, I'm not 100% sure that the allegation was true, though I assume so)

I was hired for some of the operations. They had mostly already decided on their strategy. I found their strategy to be somewhat distasteful, but I admired their moxie. Their entire business model was to markup the price on something that could easily become readily available! My skills were valuable, but definitely replaceable in this instance (that is, if I hadn't taken the gig, they would've found someone else who performed just as well). I was well compensated on an hourly basis, though it had negligible impact on my income for that year (eg, less than 5%).

Of course, this isn't really an ethics question. I'm ok with my decision, but in talking with other people I've found that others hold different opinions, ranging from "no way would I take that gig" to "why would you ever even consider not doing it?*" In that sense, it has seemed to me that it is something of a Rorschach test. In this situation, you see whatever ethics you want to see.

* My sticking point was that I had to be ok with my message, and I decided that our PR strategy was carefully enough parsed.

3 comments:

MJM said...

adding the vague and 'carefully worded' nature of your words together, you have perplexed me enough that i dont know what i would do!

Evan said...

Heh. Fair enough. It's a Rorschach test -- so you see undecided!

Was the story interesting? I think it's an interesting story, but it doesn't flow very well the way I told it. Maybe I'll rewrite it.

Sorry I can't be more candid publically.

Evan said...

Oh man, just read it again. Defintely needs a re-write. How embarrassing.