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By Justin Rogers

Young communicators at the recent Victorian Pubic Relations Student Forum wrangled with the thorny topic of ethics, including what to do if you are asked you to work on a project or for a client that presents an ethical dilemma.  

Delivering the keynote address, Noel Turnbull, Adjunct Professor in the School of Media and Communications at RMIT University, highlighted a number of ethical issues increasingly faced by communicators. Turnbull advocated, now more than ever, communicators must act as the conscience of an organisation.

He said communicators need to be “on the street, in taxis and among the crowd at the football” in order to monitor public opinion and attitudes towards issues ensuring they are better able to assist in responsible organisational decision making.

Jason Laird, Executive Director, Communications at Telstra continued the conversation on ethical dilemmas faced by professional communicators, discussing the reasons behind Telstra’s position on not paying bloggers in return for exposure.

Speaking the day after Telstra announced redundancies as part of an organisational restructure, Laird spoke compassionately about communicating job losses, the sometimes difficult reality faced by communicators and the importance of empathy.

Organised by academics from major Melbourne universities and sponsored by the IABC, the annual Forum presents a valuable opportunity for passionate students studying professional communication to network, gain insights into current trends and issues, and access to industry professionals.

Students were also able to get out of the classroom and into the boardroom with a series of open house tours around Melbourne, meeting industry professionals who discussed how they employed communication to add value to their organisation and clients.

As future communicators on the threshold between academia and the ‘real world’, the Forum didn’t seek to provide attendees with the answers; rather food for thought and the opportunity for students to reflect on the types of dilemmas faced by professionals working in dynamic business environments.


Justin Rogers is a lecturer in Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations) at RMIT University and a member of the IABC Victoria Board.