Texas Ex Matt Mackowiak on ethics

On Tuesday, March 20, UT PRSSA welcomed Texas Ex and political communications pro Matt Mackowiak as a guest speaker. As president and founder of Potomac Strategy Group, Matt has over eight years of experience working on individual and corporate political campaigns and providing his political analysis “punditry,” as he calls it, to many national TV and radio broadcasts and publications.

Matt was invited to speak because of how well his expertise in public affairs and politics contributes to the topic of ethics in the public relations profession. As members of both PRSSA and the communications industry as a whole, we are expected to uphold professional values of advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence loyalty and fairness, and values from the PRSA code of conduct as well.

PRSA Professional Liaison Jenifer Sarver, a Texas alumna and fellow political PR junkie, recommended Matt to UT PRSSA President Rachael Sperling as the perfect candidate to speak on ethics and managing how people see you. Matt explained how maintaining both your personal and professional reputation while also managing your personal brand goes hand in hand. Matt explained how maintaining both your personal and professional reputation while also managing your personal brand goes hand in hand.

“When it comes to ethics, your reputation is everything,” Matt said. “The way things are today, you’ll work for 10 or 20 different companies, and the only constant is your reputation.”

In order to get a grasp on balancing your reputation and personal brand, Matt suggested coming up with three adjectives you would like people to use while describing you.

“If you’re not embodying those [three adjectives] every single day, you need to take a look in the mirror,” Matt said. He cited honesty, responsiveness and professionalism to be the best ways for those working with you, especially journalists and the press, to see you.

After Matt spoke, 39 UT PRSSA members signed the PRSA Member Code of Ethics Pledge, promising to always uphold truth and accuracy, the two main pillars of ethics for professional communicators.

UT PRSSA member and sophomore public relations junior Aly Kasberg took valuable lessons home from the ethics meeting. “As a public relations major, ethics are implied but not always addressed in such depth. As I’m currently pursuing an internship in public affairs, hearing Matt speak was not only helpful in reinforcing the importance of your reputation, but also on how to be successful with communications in politics while avoiding tragedy,” Aly said. “Leaving the meeting, I felt like I had a better grasp of the ethical standards of the industry, marketing my personal brand, and just how important they both are to a successful career.”

At the close of the meeting, Matt touched on how communication is important and advised that being hardworking, interested in how the media works and always keeping conscious of your personal brand are the best ways to stand out to potential employers and colleagues.

“Communications matters more than you can possibly realize,” Matt said. “The way we consume communications is a result of how communications is practiced.” As communicators, it’s our responsibility to practice it correctly and ethically to get the best information out to our audiences.

See more of Matt’s work on his blog Potomac Flacks, political news site Must Read Texas and his Twitter @MattMackowiak

Excerpts from chapter president Rachael Sperling’s Storify story of Tweets from the ethics meeting: