Oral Histories

Jim Murphy

Interview Segments on Topic: Ethical Decisionmaking/Behavior

Jim Murphy Biography

James Murphy is the chairman and CEO of Murphy & Co.

Murphy was the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Accenture and current Chairman and CEO of Murphy and Company, a management consulting firm specializing in corporate marketing and communications.  Mr. Murphy successfully let the effort to rebrand and reposition Accenture in 2000 - 2001 which won widespread recognition for the company.

Mr. Murphy also chairs the PR Coalition, which focuses on issues of interest to all communications professionals and has been recognized for his expertise in government and investor relations, editorial and media activities, corporate advertising, crisis communications, marketing communications and philanthropy, plus many others professional skills.

Transcript

Interviewer: Do you think that today’s students graduating in public relations are ready for ethical decision making as they of course start out and work their way through the business.

Murphy: I think so. I just haven’t had enough exposure to that although we recruit at Accenture, we recruit a lot of people, so I get exposure to graduates that way. And I find today’s graduate quite ethical. I don’t I mean see ethical business to me is, well of course you don’t go to business today in a large company without being ethical. It’s a given. I mean it’s a price of entry. It’s not a plus. I mean if you are not ethical you are not going to survive today in the transparent world. So I think the kids, the kids, I mean the young people coming into business get it. I think they understand that.

Interviewer: Good.

Murphy: They certainly see enough headlines about people who are not ethical so they ought to get that message right?

Interviewer:  Right.

Murphy: The media do not let up on this so.

Interviewer: Let’s just go take a look at mission statements.

Murphy: Right.

Interviewer: Let’s go back to Owens Corning, Beatrice and Merrill Lynch. Did they have codes of ethics and also when you were there and also now with Murphy and Co.? Did you have formalized staff training on ethical behavior?

Murphy:  I'm trying to recall. I know all of them had mission statements and ethical standards. No question about that. Certainly Accenture has extensive training in ethical behavior. And Merrill Lynch does too I’m sure. They have all the compliance issues they have, because they are a regulated company by the Federal government, so there’s all sorts of training around that at Merrill Lynch. I think I can’t remember frankly at Beatrice and Owens Corning if there was formal training, but there was certainly formal communications about it all the time. And there was, you signed a document every year about your code of ethics but I can’t remember frankly whether there was training or not so.

Interviewer: … and at Murphy & Co?

Murphy: Well we are small. We’re 75 people and we have a code of ethics but we don’t have any formal training classes, in a sense because we communicate regularly about it and the training class didn’t seem to be necessary so.  But if we got larger we would have to do that I’m sure. So…

Interviewer: Well I mean you sort of answered this but do you feel it’s pretty important for a corporation, whatever size it is to have an ethics or mission statement.

Murphy: I mean, I don’t think I mean it’s like having a profit and loss statement. There’s not an option to it. I mean it’s when you talk to someone in the public relations business and they don’t say to you well that’s a given well they don’t get it. I mean you have to have a set of ethics today. It has to be enforced. But I mean it’s not like something that’s it’s an idea someone does. I mean you just do it. It’s not a program like someone has an idea to do it. And at the end of the day how else could you operate? Today’s transparency of big companies there’s no choice about it. So it’s what you do beyond that’s standards ethics. Its’ where you pay back to society. It’s how you direct your investments. It’s how you treat your people beyond the ethical behavior. Beyond the ethics of it all. It’s how you think about your clients and your customers. It’s how you treat your suppliers. It’s well beyond ethical behavior. It’s just being a solid citizen and how you operate around the world. Interesting enough, I’m connected with the Public Relations Coalition and we’ve done something around Brand American because it’s suffering in recent years. And what American businesses do around the world in terms of community service and, if you would, ethical behavior is so far out shining any other countries’ businesses it’s unbelievable. I mean American businesses operate at such a high ethical level in comparison to most companies in the world it’s remarkable. And I don’t think we get a lot of credit for that.