Recently, top global PR agency, Weber Shandwick, filed a restraining order against competitor, Hill + Knowlton Strategies, “alleging that they breached contractual obligations by soliciting clients, staff and confidential information” (Sudhaman). Essentially, Weber Shandwick is taking legal action against H+K Strategies after two employees (current H+K COO Ken Luce and EVP Jody Venturoni) left the agency’s Dallas office to work for H+K, taking extensive confidential information including financial data and client strategies with them.
How does this relate to you, the summer intern?
Well, as an intern, you will probably be able to access a significant amount of confidential information about the organization you work for. Your employment is temporary and you will probably have the opportunity to work for a similar (or competing) organization in the future. The confidential information you learn while at one company should never be used to help you get ahead in another. For example, if you finish an internship at Company A and then begin interning at Company B and you happen to know a few things that Company A is working on that could benefit Company B to know – it is unethical to divulge that information. Not only is it unethical, but you could face legal action like the two H+K employees.
Now let’s say that you have friends at a competing company or know some people at a news organization. The same rule applies. Don’t blab to your friends about information you learn at your internship, because you never know what others will do with that information. And while sometimes the information may not seem confidential, you should take precautions to never divulge company information.
To stay in the clear, here is my rule: Never talk about company information that is not public knowledge. I love to use things I learned at my internships to inspire my work in my classes, but I am careful to only talk about things that are used in case studies. If the company promotes something, it’s fair game. So while at your internship this summer, be aware that you’re exposed to a lot of confidential information – so use it solely as an educational tool and you’ll have a great summer!
Sudhaman, Arun. "The Holmes Report." 20 January 2012. Weber Shandwick Brings Legal Action Against Hill + Knowlton Duo. 25 February 2012