Ethical Snakes and Ladders

Eva Maclaine, chair of Professional Practices Committee and CIPR Council Member, interviews Carmen Spinoza, as part of #EthicsFest.

As I am going to the Greater London Group’s event on 27 October to play an ethical version of Snakes and Ladders with other GLGers, I thought I would track down Carmen Spinoza, the heroine of the game, to find out a bit more. I was in for a surprise!

Eva:           Hi Carmen. I’m really looking forward to the Greater London Group’s Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop. What can you tell me about it?

Carmen:    Well, “Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders” draws on the principles of gamification and immersive experiences to help participants navigate real world ethical dilemmas. At my company Globocorp, we face these dilemmas all the time – sometimes the ‘right thing to do’ is obvious. Other times it isn’t. That’s the challenge of the game.

Eva:           How do ethics shape the principles of the workshop?

Carmen:    I understand ethics as the moral compass you and your company use to help you navigate your way in the world. Using that compass to makes decisions is crucial. However, it’s always a challenge first to define the ethical framework within which you operate and then to stick to it when the situation is not straightforward. There are very few black and white behaviours – what is seen as unethical in one situation can be perfectly acceptable behaviour in another. Frameworks, developed by a group of peers – such as the CIPR’s decision tree – are incredibly useful but sticking to them is not always easy.

Eva:                       What are the key ethical issues for you in PR?

Carmen:    Where to start? Do we start with the recent warnings meted out to YouTube celebrities about their relationships with fans? Should we talk about whether it is ethical that a shop in New York is getting lots of media coverage by charging men a 7 per cent “man tax” to highlight price differences between men’s and women’s products? Or maybe we should talk about the ethics of this article which purports to be an interview but, as we both know, I don’t really exist? It’s probably not ethical to publish a fake interview with someone, is it?

Eva:           Hmmm. No, definitely not – unless we make it clear that you don’t exist and explain where you come from! So what can people expect at the workshop?

Carmen:    Well, in the workshop, created and facilitated by Casilda Malagón and Stephen Welch, participants will consider ethical challenges I face in my company, a fictional technology fashion outfit where I’m the communications director. The scenarios focus on theory and reality, managing stakeholder relationships and contributing to corporate success. Participants will need to solve issues quickly.

Eva:            Can you tell me a bit more?

Carmen:     Participants will work in small teams. They will be given three ethical dilemmas to discuss and agree the ‘best’ solution to each. They will need to organise themselves and come to a consensus. Depending on their choice, they will have to adjust their score and also their reputation points with different stakeholders. The team that ends up with the highest total wins the game.

Eva:           Sounds interesting and fun – the best way to learn! How did you arrive at the “ethics” version of the workshop?

Carmen:    We’ve run this workshop quite a few times. There’s a generic version, but our experience is that by tailoring it to a specific situation really brings it to life for people. So, for example, we did it as a workshop for a comms team in a pharmaceutical company and built in their key principles and behaviours. For a Swiss company, we developed a version to help teams balance central and local priorities, and functional and operational ones. For October 27, Casilda and Stephen will align to the CIPR thinking on ethics.

Eva:           What do you expect people to take away from the evening?

Carmen:    We expect them to have fun, to learn, to challenge themselves and to collaborate with new colleagues they haven’t yet met. People should know that it is a workshop, so they will have to work! The clue’s in the name, folks! Another clue is that if you follow me on Twitter (@carmenspinoza11), I’ll give participants some tips on how to win.

Eva:           Are you planning further events outside London?

Carmen:    Well, I just mentioned Switzerland, and I was in the US in June. So, yes, we do travel, and if you want to have a conversation about your specific needs, please get in touch. I can be found on twitter or email:

Eva:           Thanks, see you on the 27th. Here’s a link.

Eva specialises in communication programmes with particular emphasis on reputation and issues management, stakeholder management and strategy development. She works in the UK and internationally. She is a Founding Chartered Practitioner, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, board director, was Chair of CIPR International for three years and now is Chair of the Coordinating Committee. An occasional guest lecturer, she has also contributed to An Introduction to Public Relations, published by Pearson, and to CIPR’s Platinum - a collection of essays to celebrate CIPR’s 70th anniversary, and regularly runs webinars.

Leave a Reply