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Copywriting and ethics… what would you do?

angry manThere are going to be times when every copywriter is faced with a moral dilemma.  But when it comes to business, we firmly believe ethics must come first.

One evening I was still at my desk working late and automatically answered the phone when it rang, despite it being well out of office hours.  My late evening caller had expected a voice mail and I was equally surprised to find someone enquiring about a new website at that time of night.

Once we had both recovered our equilibrium, the conversation continued.  Mr Caller felt his website was letting him down.  It needed a much more contemporary and upmarket look. He asked if could we help. Normally we’d be delighted, but as the situation unfolded, it was clear working with this prospective client would present a significant conflict of interest.

You see, Mr Caller is a direct competitor of one of our existing clients.  We had designed our client’s website and written the SEO content. When I asked Mr Caller how he had heard of us (standard marketing practice), he hesitated and admitted he had found our details on our client, his competitor’s website.

Investing in a web and copywriting service isn’t like buying a loaf of bread.  We have long-term relationships with our clients, and these relationships are built on mutual trust and respect.  Had we agreed to work with Mr Caller, we would have a duty of care to him and his business. But as we are already working with Mr Caller’s direct competitor, we would have had divided loyalties.

Sadly, Mr Caller was a little disgruntled at my ethical stance and felt we should have been grateful to have the work.  But here at WORD-right, our reputation is something we protect fiercely, and taking an ethical approach gains us more work than we lose.  So Mr Caller withdrew in a huff saying he’d go elsewhere.

I was bound to wonder though, if the roles had been reversed and he had been the original client, would he have viewed it differently?

So, it’s a question of ethics.  Should we have taken the work and to hell with the consequences?  What would you have done?

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