Oral Histories

Emmanuel Tchividjian

Interview Segments on Topic: Arthur Page/Principles/Society/Center

Emmanuel Tchividjian Biography

Emmanuel Tchividjian serves as the Executive Director, Ethics Consulting Practice for Ruder-Finn, the only PR agency with an ethics officer, ethics committee and regular ethics meetings to which all staff are invited. Tchividjian has been with the company since 1997. Prior to joining Ruder-Finn, he worked for the Government of Switzerland and in particular, was tasked with researching and telling that country's account on issues relating to WWII and the Holocaust.

Mr. Tchividjian is a Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional from the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) and a member of the Ethics & Compliance Officers Association, (ECOA) the national professional association for managers of ethics and compliance programs. He is the Ethics Officer of the New York Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America as well as a member (ex-officio) of the National Board of Ethics and Professional Standards. He is also a member of the Swiss-American and French-American Chambers of Commerce.


Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about, about counseling, as a counseling role, transitioning a little bit from mentoring. The aim of the Arthur W. Page Center and the Arthur Page Society is to help individuals become counselors to leadership. So how can individuals best prepare themselves for this role; best prepare themselves to be counselors to leaders in public relations?

Tchividjian: Well, I think you have to put yourselves into the person you are going to counsel’s shoes and think what keeps him or her awake at night; what are the issues; what’s the past or the history; and what are the challenges on one hand. On the other hand, you have to encourage. You can’t be someone if you’re going to speak to the CEO that’s going to tell him what he wants to hear. We’ve seen this in the political world, people surrounding themselves with advisors that praise that person and tell him he’s right and then you have people with courage and with integrity that will say things as they see them.

Interviewer: So how can individuals prepare themselves to be counselors? What are some of the things that they can do to prepare them to be a good counselor to leadership?

Tchividjian: In reading or what kind of preparation?

Interviewer: Preparation as far as that, education, maybe even going back to some mentoring.

Tchividjian: I think some psychology can help because it helps with your interaction and the understanding of the other. That could be helpful. I think you need a dose of humility because you can be wrong. You can be both forceful, and humble at the same time; forceful when you really know for sure, but we rarely know for sure. You have to make sure that you always consider the person you’re counseling’s best interests at all times and not yours.

Interviewer: What about professional accreditation? Is professional accreditation necessary to guarantee ethical standards in the field of public relations? And if so, what should the standards be for accreditation that would lead to more ethical decision-making?

Tchividjian: I think accreditation is very important. I am unfortunately not a member of APR, but maybe I should be and maybe I will. I think highly of it because it’s more than just recognition of what you know, there’s also an element of education about ethics in most of those programs, and I’m sure it’s the same in the Arthur Page Society. So I highly recommend it; I think it’s very important. It won’t guarantee anything, but it’s very important. Nothing is guaranteed.

Interviewer: Right. What about continued education for senior public relations professionals. Do you think that’s something that can lead to more ethical understanding and do you also think that it’s necessary? Is this something that you think seasoned professionals should be back in the classroom and learning about this something they can learn on the job?

Tchividjian: I have mixed feelings about that; theoretically I would think it’s a good idea, but when you look at executives that are involved hours and hours a day with issues unless it’s something totally new, I don’t see them taking the time or thinking it’s necessary to go and get some more credit points like lawyers do. I think if it would be interesting if it was something totally unknown to them or their field or their expertise was presented, then it might be worth it. But it’s hard with their busy schedules and their amount of clients to put aside some time for those credits. I know that the legal profession requires it, but it is more complex because new things come up all the time in the legal world; that’s not quite true for PR.

Interviewer: I just have one last question for you then. Briefly put, the Arthur W. Page Center at Penn State is committed to fostering integrity in public relations. Could you suggest a few ways that a program like this can be even more effective at educating—at the Page Center; yes. What could the Center do to foster integrity beyond our own center and prepare students, but also reach out to the practice to encourage ethics?

Tchividjian: Maybe PR? Some more PR for Arthur Page Society that it’s an organization of resource, credibility, that agencies and individuals, and agencies and sole-practitioners can go back to it as a reference or for help or counseling.

Interviewer: So you’re saying offer counseling to the professionals?

Tchividjian: Absolutely.