Oral Histories

Betsy Plank

Interview Segments on Topic: Code of Ethics/Mission Statement/Credo

Betsy Plank Biography

Betsy Plank, known as a PR pioneer, a champion of PR education and the profession’s First Lady, achieved expert stature in positions not reached by previous women.  Following 13 years at Daniel J. Edelman and Associates, Inc., Plank joined the Bell system in 1973 as Director of Public Relations Planning at AT&T, and then became the first woman to direct external affairs at Illinois Bell.

Plank is the recipient of most of the top awards in the field of Public Relations, including the Public Relations Society of America’s Gold Anvil (1977), Lund (1989) and the inaugural Jackson Award (2001); in 2002, she was honored by the Arthur W. Page Society’s first Lifetime Achievement Award and the Public Relations Institute’s Hamilton Award.  In 2005, the Trustees of the University of Alabama established the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.  The Center’s mission is to develop research, scholarships, and forums that advance the ethical practice of public relations.


Interviewer: Do you think that if the statement such as  credos and mission statements have any value or would they actually change people’s behavior. Johnson & Johnson’s credo so well known as a template for how you operate or behave in that company and other companies. Do you think that they do make the difference or they are not? Do you have an opinion about it?

Plank: I think that credos and statements of this is how we perform and these are our expectations for your performance in terms of trust and truth and ethics. I think there is most certainly a role for that. And all aspects of work life whether it’s government or profit or not for profit. But the flip side of that is that it has to be backed up by behavior and concern which is quite evident. I mean if these are simply credos that go into the bottom drawer or dress up the walls of the boardroom then they have obviously have accomplished very little. But they are essential if they are paired with practice and behavior. Because words are very powerful and they give meaning and influence to ideas so that I would think that an organization would be that is ethical and is trustworthy and that wants its employees to behave in that manner would be remiss or stupid not to put that not to put that into a credo or into something that people can refer to and believe in and say yes this is what we stand for. Because this is it’s like saying here’s a country without flags. That’s you simply don’t have that. You need a flag of that expresses the behavioral expectations of that particular organization.

Interviewer: Some companies have been telling me that like an officer the Olympics officer or managers training programs by employees.

Plank: I haven’t come that far.