Oral Histories

John (Jack) Felton

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

John (Jack) Felton Biography

John (Jack) Felton was vice-president of corporate communications at McCormick Spice Company in Baltimore MD from 1977 to 1994.  Following his retirement from McCormick, Felton became The Institute for Public Relations (IPR) chief executive.  Prior to his corporate career, he served as a first lieutenant with the U.S.A.F. Strategic Air Command during the Korean War.

Felton joined the University of Florida faculty in 1993 as the Freedom Forum Distinguished Visiting Professor. He is a former two-term president of PRSA and winner of its highest award, the Gold Anvil, in 1992.  In 2002, Felton received the Arthur W. Page Society’s Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his contributions to strengthening the role of public relations.


Interviewer: You mentioned your ethics policy. Now I know they had a pretty extensive business ethics policy. It’s 13 pages in length. I don’t know if it was that long when you were there. But was it in place when you were there and did you ever take it down off the shelf when you were in a time of crisis?

Felton: It was off the shelf all the time because the founder of the company had a very strong beginning, that if someone was going to eat something we were manufacturing, we had to be very sure that it was the best quality we could offer. It was clean. It was packaged properly. It was sold properly. That it was off the shelf when it should be. And we were careful to be sure that we labeled things clearly and properly so it was easy for the consumer to understand. We had people who weren’t used to reading labels, recipes, read the recipes and the labels to make sure they made sense and we had the same thing when we put the label into foreign languages and we had a trouble with Canada and their French and France and their French. And we had to be very careful that we sent French Canadian French because they got very insulted. They don’t like the Parisian French and the Parisian French think the Canadian French is archaic, and so we always had to be careful we were communicating in the right language culturally, which I think makes a big difference. Some companies don’t do that. The ethics policy was part of, at the end of an annual report. I had a page and I thought why don’t we just state what we believe. And we’d always had a very, very strong belief in the person on the job sometimes is best able to say how to do that job if we’ll just ask him. You know we come in and say we think we’re leaders and we say now here’s how to do this. Well sometimes we come in and give them guidelines and say here’s what I think we’re going to be operating with. And this is the parameter of what we can do. The job is your responsibility. Now if you have a problem, come see me. If you have need some help come see me even if this is just an easy question come see me but I want you to see what you think is the best way. It turns people on like you can’t believe and they just do splendid, if you let them have the chance to bring their own creativity to the job. They do things you never expected people to do.