Discretion and ethics: Decisions behind the scenes (and a public request for your opinion)

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Istock market test
A really early product placement example -- Self-advertising: A German countess holds a copy of the magazine Die Woche in her hands. The photo appeared in 1902 in an issue of Die Woche (from Wikipedia)
Some issues/challenges are timeless — including ethical choices about when to comment/act and when to remain silent.¬†The photo appeared in 1902 in an issue of Die Woche (from Wikipedia)

Much marketing and business development work is very public (think media advertising), but many decisions behind the scenes set the stage for this public presence, and of course businesses and organizations will generally seek advantages in the back rooms.

Most of these initiatives are ethically sound, though an outsider will see things differently. How can a third-party consultant or contractor break through the iron wall of a really well wired bidding opportunity (one set by the owner cooperating with the incumbent?)

The general advice for marketers and business developers is to know the territory, understand existing relationships, and (especially when the pursuit costs are high), avoid messing in spaces where you aren’t welcome.

There are other variations of these challenges. For example, what would you do if you knew something that — through disclosure — would¬†probably harm your competitor and have a modest overall value to the industry and community, but would unlikely provide much if any additional business for your own organization. In other words, your actions could really (if successful) whap the other organization, without any likely corresponding gain for yours? Do you stir the pot, or remain silent.

Argument for stirring the pot

Anything that takes a market advantage from your competitor in theory could have some (if limited) value for your business. As well, indeed in this situation there would be a general benefit and cost savings to the industry — though individual businesses won’t see much of a gain.

Argument for remaining silent

You may be seen in a negative light for “dissing” a competitor (even though you will assert this isn’t an attack on the business’s integrity, just the specific issue at hand.) The competitor, back to the wall, may seek retaliation in manners you cannot predict. There is no likely significant and easily measurable gain to you, so why waste your energies on a “problem” that you can’t really solve to your advantage.

I’d welcome your observations/votes here, so have created a modest poll, which will “close” within a few days. (You can also comment to this posting.)

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