A week of Ethics and personal growth

This week has been a blast for me.

First of we covered one of my favourite topics in our communication class: Ethics!

One of the things we spoke about when things may be legal but may not seem ethical or may simply be neither.

It made me think of all the different dilemmas and all the different ways companies may dress up their decisions.

For an example back home, we have a big global manufacturing company. It’s situated in a small town where there wasn’t much happening. It came to Iceland as things like electricity is cheap there.

This factory really brightened the place up, young people started moving back home, people that weren’t from the area also decided to move there. The place was appealing to people as housing was cheap and all of a sudden there was a company there that needed educated people (engineers, HR, management, accounting etc.) and welcomed uneducated people to work in the factory. The employees would have a great opportunity to work their way up by working hard and even doing courses the factory provided.

town

In no time this small town grew at a speed no one had seen for decades. A small shopping mall was built, there was a bar there and all sorts of companies and services wanted to be located there.

It all sounds rosy, doesn’t it? Well then there is the other side. The company doesn’t pay all the taxes it should in Iceland as it uses a loophole in the Icelandic laws to avoid to do so.

In class we were told that when we were facing an ethical dilemma, we should start off by doing a stakeholder map. In this case I find it a little troublesome as the stakeholders are many and affected in different way.

For an example the local people where the factory is are stakeholders and they can be divided into many groups: employees, spouses of employees, people that service the factory in one way or another, teachers (teaching all the children that now live in the area), people in companies that service this town that has grown so vastly etc.

The company uses the tactic of pointing at all these people and justify their acts on the grounds they are providing these people with jobs either directly or indirectly, some are even getting an education due to the company etc.

Then there are other stakeholders like competitors, who actually pay their taxes. Then there is the Icelandic public, as this factory is big on Icelandic scale, one can assume the Icelandic system would benefit massively by getting the share it should. If it would one could argue it could mean better service, roads, healthcare or whatever that money would go into. Some people even say that electricity cost goes up when a big player like this comes into the picture. That affects businesses and the general public.

group of people

When I started thinking about this factories approach and it’s justifications I assumed they were using the “Common Good Approach” which means they are basing their decisions on what best serves the community as a whole, but there was something that was bothering me about that as a reasoning. Sure, they are serving the interest of the community they are in, but what about the Icelandic community, as a whole? The notes I took while I sat in the class read: “What is the community?”, “What is the community as a WHOLE?”.

After going over this in my head and by using the tools we were given in class it showed me one can dress things up in different ways. Which might support the theory of “Spin doctors”. This particular company focuses on the good it does in the community it is located in and addresses the tax thing as little as possible. Their communications and justifications all revolve around what they ARE doing and avoiding talking about what they ARE NOT doing.

Club7 : Being brave

This week I took a big step out of my comfort zone.

Masters students on my course organised an event which resembles a TED Talk. 8 speakers, 7 minutes each. It’s the second year this event has been held and this year’s theme was Be Brave. I submitted a two minute video as an application for a spot as a speaker. To my delight (and huge amount of stress) I got selected.

Therefor, last night, I stood in a big room and told them about the challenges I have faced (some of them) and how I gathered the strength and guts to follow my dreams and make the best life I could for me and my kids.

club7

I thought everyone could see how much I was shivering. I was sure I looked like a branch in a storm but as I have reviewed the video my fiancée recorded and spoken to quite a few people that were there I know it wasn’t visible.

As I finished, I felt so relieved that my part was over with but I also felt really proud of myself. I didn’t just talk in front of a big audience, I talked about something very personal.

But that is a part of my journey, to get to tell my story, with my words, from where I am standing as, unfortunately, I know there are people out there that are telling my story in a way that serves them and degrades me. I have finally found my voice and I am not going to hide anymore. At the same time, I have no need to put other people down in this process, as that does not make me any better than them.

club7_1

IABC event

As the Club7 wasn’t enough, I also applied for a spot in a committee that is planning an IABC event in Leeds in June.

I got the honour of being selected as Head of Logistics and Committee Secretary.

It’s a huge role and at the same time such a great opportunity. I can not wait to dive into the work that comes along with this task and meet the people that will work with us and the people that will attend the event itself.

IABC-logo-retangular-1155x326.png

Seize the moment

As I told my brother I had been given the role in the IABC committee he told me he was really proud of me and happy to see I was using the time while I am at university to do more than just study.

That’s just the thing, when I decided to come to the UK to attend a university, I decided to make the most of it. I decided I would grab any opportunity to grow, as a future Communication practitioner and as a person and that’s just what I have done.

I entered a PRstudent blog competition, I have spoken at Club7 and I am now in a committee that is planning an IABC event. I have also made friends from all over the world. I have imposed Icelandic food on staff and students at the university. My kids are getting to do things I could not offer them in Iceland. Me and my fiancée are able to enjoy more time together than before.

It’s not like there hasn’t been ups and downs, as this is life, not a fairy-tale, but the ups and the positives outweigh the downs by far!

If you are a student I encourage you to use the time while you are at uni to grab every opportunity and ENJOY the journey!

asphalt road between trees
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

Iceland what is going on? Is it time for another demonstration?

Since I have started my studies in the UK I have been meaning to follow English media. I am what one might call a media junky.

However, the main media I follow is Icelandic media and throughout the day. I read through the main media sites and then open other sites if they appear on any of my social media and I consider the articles or video clips interesting.

As I am studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations it is important for me to be on top of what is happening in the country I am studying in, the UK.

But the headlines and news from Iceland have just been so outrageous, sometimes funny, other times tragicomical and most of the time unbelievable.

Mayhem at the Mayors office

In Reykjavík there is an old barracks which was built in the second world war. The city of Reykjavík decided to take it under renovations and for that job the city had an estimated cost. The job is far from finished but the cost has already exceeded the budget by more than a whopping 1,5 million pounds.

420 milljón króna braggi Nauthólsvegur 100

Sure, it is costly to renovate an old building but now that the invoices from the project have been published in the media people are outraged. One of the things the public in Reykjavík is paying for are imported straws from Denmark! The price tag on these copyrighted Danish straws is 4800 pounds. My friend who is a lawyer says one can apparently not get a copyright on straws. Even more shocking is the fact that these straws do actually grow in Iceland and therefore there is no need to import them from another country.

Strá
A pictures of the straws in question

Cost of building a bar in the barracks was 16100 pounds, included are none of the appliances needed for the bar like coffee machine, beer pumps etc.

Bragginn Bistro nauthólsvík bar
A picture of the bar

Many of the invoices that have been published have raised more questions than they have answered.

For a number of days the Mayor of Iceland did not respond to medias’ inquiries about the matter. That is not a new story though as when a sewerage pumping station, which has the role of cleaning the sewerage before pumping it into the ocean broke down it was the same. The coast line in Reykjavík was contaminated with sewage for a few weeks and the Mayor avoided speaking to the media, which made people even angrier and come up with different hypothesis of why that was the case.

Conveniently a guy that has now left his position at the city of Reykjavík has claimed to be responsible for how badly the estimate exceeded the actual cost. Some people wonder what he got in return for that confession.

A bakery in the north of Iceland saw a window of opportunity in all this chaos as it has sold cakes called Bragginn (the barracks) for almost 50 years.

Braggakaka
The original cake

Due to all the media coverage on the barracks case the bakery made a special edition of the original barracks cake which has been sold in bulk, sales increased by more than 10-fold. The bakeries spokesperson even went to the town hall and handed a few cakes to the city council.

braggi með stráum
The new and improved cake, surrounded by straws

borgarráðsbraggi
The city council with their cakes

Minister of Justice that doesn’t trust the Justice System

The current Minister of Justice Sigríður Á Andersen has been fighting her own justice system. When she had to appoint new judges at one of the Icelandic courts she got a list from a committee that had evaluated the applicants for the positions. When it came to appointing judges for the roles she disregarded 4 applicants that had been evaluated as qualified for the positions. Instead, she hired her former co-workers. The Supreme Court has ruled on the matter and declared that the Minister of Justice had in fact broke laws when she did so. The government (and thereby the Icelandic public) had to pay the compensation that the qualified applicants got for being mistreated like that. She is still firm in her belief that her actions were not illegal nor unethical.

"So what makes you think you're the right person for this post?"  "Well, I'm highly motivated, outgoing and independently minded.  Isn't that right, Dad?"

The same Minister knew about the declaration of rehabilitation of a sentenced child molester. The declaration was made by the father of the then sitting Prime Minister, now Minister of Finance and Economics. When this hit the papers in Iceland there were such powerful demonstrations the government had to step down and call for elections.

The Minister does not think there should be a law regarding a gender quota in each company as she thinks the government shouldn’t intervene in matters like that, it should be each companies own decision. This quota was legalised to try to close the gender gap when it comes to wages. One should not be surprised though as she claims there is not a measurable difference in wages between the genders, even though it has been proven.

When it was 100 years from Icelandic women getting the right to vote the parliament came together for a celebration meeting. The day is called the “Day of Women Rights”. In this meeting the parliament voted in favour of forming a fund to support gender equality. The Minister of Justice was the only one that voted against the proposal.

The Teflon-Man

The current Minister of Finance and Economics and former Prime Minister (Bjarni Ben) has been involved in a lot of controversy. For some reason he is still going strong.

One of the first things that came to the publics attention was when the Ashley Madisson leak occurred. He was there under the name “IceHot1”. The description he posted there was the following:

 „Its about being interested in a nice looking woman, wanting to have an intelligent and fun conversation and good…very good sex. Im not from the States but do travel quite often.“

icehot1

He and his wife made a statement and said they had made the account together for curiosity sake.

A company called Valdís, which makes ice-creams used the opportunity and put an ice-cream on the market called “IceHot1”. It was made with white chocolate and chilli.

icehot1ís
The IceHot1 ice-cream

This is not the only leak that the Ministers name has come up in as he appeared in the Panama papers. He brushed that off like any other scandal that he has been involved in.

As mentioned before he had to step down and call for elections when his father was involved in clearing a child molesters name, as he knew about it but didn’t see it as something he had to share with anyone.

Leading up to the financial crisis he got involved in insider trading. He had information from a bank manager on where everything was heading and used the information and sold his shares. He sold them for 763.000 pounds. Around the same time his father and uncle sold their shares as well. Just before the last elections the media got information about these insider trading and stated covering the story. Quickly there was an injunction on them so it was prohibited to cover the story. After the election a higher court ruled that the injunction should be lifted, by that time he was back in power.

The International Monetary Fund has made serious comments on the Icelandic Financial Supervisory Authority. They have stressed their concerns as this is the body that should make decisions on things like whether the Minister should be prosecuted for his actions. The problem is that the committee is appointed by the Minister himself and the IMF concludes that therefore, it is not independent enough to make unbiased decisions.

He has claimed that people that say there isn’t an economic boom that benefits the majority are crazy and that people that are struggling are financially illiterate.

For some reason no matter whether his practices are illegal or unethical, nothing seems to stick which has caused him to be nick-named The Teflon-man.

Pub banter recorded

The most recent scandal appeared in the media less than two days ago. Six members of the Parliament from two different parties were recorded while drinking at a bar close to the Parliament, while they should be at work. The whole scandal has been given the name #klausturgate on social media, referring to the Watergate scandal.

The 6 MP’s were unaware that another guest at the bar was recording their conversation. The guest claims he couldn’t believe what he was hearing and concurred they were relevant to the public of Iceland. He recorded almost 4 hours of what the MP’s have disregarded as banter. He says the MP’s thought he was a foreign tourist.

They made homophobic jokes, made fun of a former MP and her disabilities, called women degrading names and talked about shady goings on when it comes to appointing ambassadors abroad.

Some of the remarks they made were for an example:

“Who’s that bi***? Fuck that bi***!” About another MP.

“She’s a cu** that cried her way into the parliament” About yet another MP.

Made the sound of a seal when talking about the former disabled MP.

Freyja

“Now I am going to say something really dirty. She’s young but starting to age quickly. She’s a lot less hot than she was 4 years ago”. “From a distance she’s really hot but….” About the Mayor of Vestmannaeyjar.

“Welcome to politics!” Said by one of the MP’s to another whilst trying to persuade him to jump ship and join his party.

“You have this absolutely crazy cu** as a leader!”. “She’s fu***** crazy”. About another MP, in fact the leader of the party that two of the MP’s at the bar are members of.

“He got through it like butter on Friðrik’s Ómars condom”. Friðrik Ómar is a gay Icelandic musician.

Friðrik
The musician made fun of remarks on social media

One of the members has received awards from UN’s HeForShe while on the recording he shows a disrespectful attitude towards women.

Two of the MP’s are taking a temporary leave. Two have been fired by their party but they are still going to sit in the Parliament. To begin with they disregarded this as drinking banter and focused on the fact they were being recorded without permission and one of them even claimed they had probably been bugged by George Soros.

The pub where the conversation took place has posted a picture on social media with the caption: “ABSOLOUTLY CRAZY Christmas punch throughout December! CRAZY Christmas atmosphere and cosiness. Pop in at Klaustur, the worst kept secret in Reykjavík”

klaustur
The pubs post on social media

Another company has made wall stickers that say: “Welcome to politics!”

Yet another pub posted the following on their social media: “We are open today at 16:00 and close at 01:00. Enjoy having a good beer in a good and calm atmosphere. Talking behind peoples back and wiring equipment’s are completely forbidden at Ölstofan!!!”  

_lstofan
Ölstofan’s post on social media

People are voicing their discontent

Due to all this turbulence and unbelievable news lately, I just haven’t been able to take my eyes of Icelandic media. I will keep a close eye on it for a while longer as a demonstration has been planned and will take place tomorrow on Iceland’s 100 year birthday of Sovereignty. Has the public had enough? Will Icelanders see the 3rd parliamentary elections in as many years?

voting-pic

Being a PR student in the shadow of the professions questionable reputation

Oh, the controversy of Public Relations!

I have 10 siblings, in that group I have two siblings with a university degree. I come from a line of hardworking working-class people. From generation to generation I believe the elderly always hoped the younger ones would be able to make a better life for themselves. Not merely live from pay check to pay check, and sometimes not even that. Therefore, my grandparents and parents have tried their best to push us towards education. They want us to be able to enjoy the jobs we do as well as life.

large_graduation-owl

My brother holds a Bachelors degree and Masters degree. He’s 1 and half years younger than me and very close to me. He has always encouraged me to study. Understandably, when I made the decision to do my Bachelors he was the first one I called, for support you see.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I’m going back to school!”

Him: “Really? That’s great news!”

Me: “Yeah, I just enrolled this morning!”

Him: “Fantastic! I am so happy for you!!”

Me: “Thank you!”

Him: “So what is it in?”

Me: “Media and Public Relations”

….at this moment I got the feeling that if he would have stood in front of me, he would have spat in my face.

Him: “What the fxxx!! Bloody unprofessional bunch of people! Got no morals and are ready to say what ever as long as they get paid for it!!”

Me: “Hey, I’m still me and my ethics won’t change overnight….”

Him: “These people are spin doctors and twist the truth to serve their clients!!”

Me: “Well…I just wanted to share this with you. I’ll start next month…”

'Are we talking about political reality, media reality or the real reality?'

And that’s where we left it. I didn’t manage to tell him I was in it for the media side of it as I wanted to become a journalist or a news reporter. The public Relations side just came with the course. Once the news broke out within my family I continually met voices that echoed my brothers opinion and my standard answer was: “I’m in it for the media side”. Whenever Public Relations practitioners were working for corrupt politicians or companies with a bad reputation I would be poked and told that was going to me. As time passed I got to the Public Relations part of my studies and to my surprise I loved it! I liked the sound of the buzz around the occupation, the thought of meeting a lot of people, the fact the tasks can vary and so on. Therefore, it became harder to answer people when they told me I was a future spin doctor.

swear-to-spin-the-truth_resize

In my Public Relations class we were told to tell the truth and tell it quick. That sounded pretty ethical and to me it felt like that’s how it should be done, but maybe not everyone practiced in that way.

Due to all this I decided to calm my own mind and shut up all these negative voices (hopefully) by writing my final dissertation on ethics in Public Relations. It was called “Ethics and Public Relations: where is the line?” This is the dissertations abstract:

“This dissertation covers the ethics of Icelandic professionals working in the field of public relations. It covers what kind of values they follow when facing ethical issues at work. It examines whether those values are formal or informal and whether they follow them when facing an ethical crisis. To achieve an answer to those questions in this dissertation it is based on theoretical content such as philosophy, peer-reviewed articles and other material that concluded my findings. Additionally, it is based on interviews with four professionals in the field of public relations and their attitudes towards ethics at work.

The findings indicate that public relations professionals in Iceland work by informal and personal values. It differs whether they actually follow through with those values when it comes to it as half of the participants said they would, while the other half either said the liability rests on the shoulders of their company directors or that when it comes down to it, ultimately the client pays for a certain service.”

In short, it varies. Some follow ethical guidelines, mostly their own, as there doesn’t seem to be many formal rules for the profession in Iceland. However, there is an association of Public Relations practitioners in Iceland but only two out of the four practitioners I spoke to knew of its existence. None of them knew that the association had a set of ethical rules. Two of them said they wouldn’t lie but they might not tell everything if it wasn’t necessary. They all agreed however, if you lie and practice spin you won’t survive in this profession for a long time. Especially not in a country as small as Iceland as news travels fast and as a Public Relations practitioner your reputation is everything.

When I told my family that I was going abroad for further studies in Public Relations I met with nothing but positivity and support. It’s a field that many do not understand and to be fair, Hollywood hasn’t done us any favours. My family now understands that the profession doesn’t make a person unethical and that it rests with the person itself as to how they practice.

we-love-public-relations