It must be acknowledged: Speechwriting is and always will be ethically fraught. The very attempt of one human mind to write an expression to be issued by another human mouth—that mouth usually owned by a figure vastly more influential than the writer—makes speechwriting an ethically complicated job.
But for that very reason, speechwriters have yearned for a code: some generally agreed-upon ethical guidelines to show their leaders, their clients, their colleagues and their listeners what speechwriters should and should not do with their peculiar powers of persuasion.
This is the imperfect document that our association’s leaders, helped by advice from working speechwriters around the world, have produced. It is a living document, subject to periodic elaboration, updating, reconsideration and revision.
We hope it is useful to speechwriters who wish to be helpful.
- PLAGIARISM: Speechwriters never plagiarize.
- CONFIDENTIALITY: Speechwriters keep matters involving clients as confidential as the clients demand and expect.
- CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Speechwriters take assignments only after sharing with clients potential conflicts of interest.
- FEES: Freelance speechwriters are open about their basic fee structure, including the factors that call for variation.
- CANDOR: Speechwriters are willing to speak “truth to power.” That means confronting the client when asked to include deceptive, misleading or false material.
- AUDIENCE: On all assignments, the speechwriter serves listeners as well as the speaker—respecting their time, and considering their intellectual interests and their individual and collective needs.
- MISSION: Speechwriters use all their abilities to make clients better communicators.