Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
November 9, 2009

Whistleblower to PRSA: “I Was Ashamed”

Wendell Potter, APR testifiesIn an extraordinarily personal account of confronting his personal demons, a former senior insurance industry executive today urged public relations pros to put ethics ahead of personal gain.

Wendell Potter, APR, told attendees at the Public Relations Society of America’s annual International Conference that the ethics lessons he learned from a college professor and mentor ultimately triumphed, catapulting him into the role of whistleblower against an industry battling insurance reform.

“I think I lost my moral compass along the way,” said Potter, who testified against the HMO industry before the U.S. Senate in June. “I often was ashamed, quite frankly, about what I was doing.”

Potter’s poignant remarks came during an interview-style discussion with Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, who also used her #prsa09 remarks to touch on ethics.

The event that prompted Potter to give up the high salary and status of running comms at one of the nation’s largest insurance companies was a touring free clinic run by Remote Area Medical in rural Virginia.

At the clinic, Potter saw hundreds of people standng in the rain for medical care that was provided in animal stalls by volunteer doctors. In contrast, the insurance industry was endorsing front groups that opposed health care reform, Potter said. 

It was a heavy and timely topic, with the PRSA appearance occurring the day after the House of Representatives pased a health care bill.  

Dave Armon, vice chairman, dna13Dave Armon, vice chairman, dna13, has been a member of PRSA for 20 years. Previously, he served as president and COO of PR Newswire, where he worked for 20 years. Dave’s first job was as a radio traffic reporter in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. His favorite job was driving a Skippy Ice Cream truck. Connect with Dave on Twitter.

For coverage of the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, visit our Conference blog or follow the conversation on Twitter at hashtag #prsa09.

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