The fall of Bell Pottinger has given the PR industry a serious wake up call. Corporate ethics is now top of the agenda for many agencies not wanting to go down the same path. Brands have been under a lot of pressure to do the "right thing", whether that be revealing the gender pay gap at the BBC, John Lewis stocking gender-neutral clothing or Dior and Gucci banning super-skinny models from their advertising.
It is no surprise then that ethics will now form a very large part of the reason a brand picks an agency partner to work with. As it goes without saying, agencies are often an extension to the brand. If an agency is found to have behaved unethically, this could have major knock on effects for any brands they work with, which is why brands are being more careful in picking their partners. Many brands now include detailed ethical questions in their pitch RFIs and RFPs.
Of course it can work both ways. Agencies must also decide on the sorts of people they want to get in to bed with. They should regularly evaluate their values and ethics. If they work with an unethical brand and it gets out, it could mean the loss of every one of their clients.
When picking an agency it shouldn't just be about the bottom line or that they're the smartest people, but also about your shared values. It's often when you enjoy working with someone that the highest quality of work is produced. When your values and culture are aligned, your thinking will be to.
The issue of corporate ethics has risen high up the social agenda in recent weeks, characterised by the demise of PR giant Bell Pottinger which was found to be conducting secret campaigns designed to stoke racial tensions in South Africa.