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14 Dec 2017 Digital

According to Google Trends, 2017 was the Year Ethics Came into Focus

Recovery Brands
Recovery Brands

The coveted “year in search” data from Google has finally arrived, and like many people, I was eager to dig in and remember the year’s events and the public’s response.

We’ll discuss the way people were searching in 2017 in a future post (stay tuned), but for now, I’d like to explore the topics people were most interested in this year. As I studied the top people, news, and even memes people searched, one theme was clear: 2017 was a year of scandal, but also the year individuals and corporations were held accountable.

For those in in the addiction treatment space, this year was a critical reminder of the value of ethical operations, and an unwavering commitment to doing right.

What were people searching in 2017?

Across several categories, the “scandal” theme was evident. You can explore all of the category trends here, but below are a few key findings relevant to this discussion.

  • Three of the top five searched people were individuals accused of sexual harassment or assault.
  • Two of the top five searched actors were connected to sexual harassment or assault.
  • The second most popular meme was related to a corporate scandal (United Airlines).
  • The fourth most popular search overall was “Matt Lauer” who was recently fired from NBC for allegations of sexual harassment.

This year proved the adage “bad news travels fast,” and as a result, individuals with longstanding reputations of decency and respectability were sent to their knees overnight. The lesson here? Once exposed, unethical behavior is adamantly inexcusable, and one’s reputation is — in most cases — unsalvageable.

For those of us in the addiction treatment space, this year is a pressing reminder of the value we should place on ethical operations. No matter how much good you are doing to improve the lives of those suffering with substance use issues, any unethical decision can seriously damage your reputation.

The public expects swift response to unethical behavior

The corporate response to this year’s scandals was also telling of a new standard that all businesses — including addiction treatment centers — are expected to adhere to.

In the past, individuals and businesses have been able to minimalize unethical behavior via public statements or a few months’ hiatus away from the spotlight. Now, the public expects swift and merciless action. The proof? NBC fired Matt Lauer, Netflix removed Kevin Spacey from the remaining seasons of House of Cards, and FX terminated Louis C.K.’s contract immediately after allegations of misconduct were released.

In the case of United Airlines however, we can see the result of a poorly-planned response. After a passenger was forcibly removed from a United Airlines aircraft, the company released a statement placing the blame on the passenger. A public relations crisis quickly followed suit as outraged customers threatened to boycott the airline. While United Airlines released a later statement admitting full responsibility for the incident, the company is still recovering from the inadequacy of their initial response.

The lesson for those in the addiction treatment space? Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for unethical behavior, and take swift action when a transgression is brought to your attention. This means everyone from your CEO, to your CMO, to your clinicians, to your support staff, are held to the same consequences for decisions that teeter into unethical territory.

Your public response to media inquiries is equally as important as the actions you take to resolve the issue. Ensure your response is aligned with best practices for crisis management. In other words, be timely, thoughtful, honest, proactive and thorough.

In 2017, we learned just how difficult it is to recover from poor decisions and unethical behavior. What policies and policing does your facility have in place to ensure you’re operating ethically? Share in the comments below.

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