Social Media Ethics: Letting the PRSA Code of Ethics Guide Your Behavior


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In this special Ethics Month webinar, PRSA's Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) provided insight and training for public relations professionals on social media ethics and how the PRSA Code of Ethics can help determine the proper course of action and protect you and your clients' reputation and credibility. Current examples of unethical practices in social media were examined. BEPS members also provided guidance on how public relations professionals can ensure their social-media campaigns uphold the ethical standards of the profession.

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  • Utilizing a global tragedy for own self-gain Brand may have a history of being provocative but this is simply taking the role of marketing provocateur too far PR Counsel should have stepped into offer more precise and immediate expertise to client Immediate global backlash that was fast and furious throughout many facets, mediums and audiences outside of the KC normal pool Multitude of “fake” Kenneth Cole tweets resulted and (@KennethColePR) popped up linking more disasters to the fashion brand, similar to what occurred to BP during the Gulf spill, all horribly offensive Not first time – Kenneth Cole has inappropriately miss stepped similarly previously in similar fashion PR counsel should have had such scenarios on their radar from past history Expertise should have been part of SM on-going corporate training, including CEO Should have used expertise to advise immediate address Kenneth Cole issued personal apology that was long in coming (six hours) and a bit on the light side that furthered more negative comment “ We weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment.. KC” Should have simply and immediately apologized, sincerely, and moved on 24/7 news cycle is gone replaced by 60-second news cycle Backlash continued because of the level of insincerity interpreted by social media audiences With more than 11,000+ followers on Twitter, engagement recommendation should have been a critical component of counsel expertise to accompany the apology
  • Wrong post to the wrong account (meant as a personal tweet, instead sent to 270,000 followers @Redcross corporate account) Immediate and HUMAN response to loyal audience diverted disaster “ We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys” Swift, human and humorous approach brought out loyal customers and actually is credited with increasing Red Cross donations Red Cross took their apology further by writing an immediate blog post that acknowledged their mistake “ While we’re a 130-year-old humanitarian organization, we’re also made up of human beings. Thanks for not only getting that but for turning our faux pas into something good” Red Cross Blog Excellent recommendation by PR SM staff that deleting the post was not enough to hide the damage – needed to address to their loyal following Likewise, collaborative counsel of RC and Brewer staff resulted in other tweeters, especially the Brewer’s fans to launch a fundraising effort and blood donation drive for Red Cross via a hash tag; #gettingslizzard SM community and Facebook fans turned the mistweet into a rallying cause Solidified current audience and prompted new loyal following Local bars across country entered the fray by offering “beer-for-blood” promotions Show you’ve donated a pint @redcross today & we’ll buy you a pint of @Dogfishbeer Recommendations by PR SM staff of making the human connection was spot on as was recommendation to engage by driving and connecting donors to the charity from both the Red Cross site and also the Brewer’s site – created literally a donation parade Even Hootsuite, the mistakenly utilized SM outlet of the original rogue tweet donated SM world understands no one is perfect, however, they will notice when a company isn’t responsible for its mistakes
  • Corporately, on a global level, there is a crisis of confidence and trust between businesses and consumers Process: ID the ethical issue or conflict Determine internal/external factors likely to influence decisions Choose key PRSA values that apply Consider audiences impacted by decision + obligations/responsibilities to each Select ethical principle(s) to guide decision Important because: (Reiterate earlier statement) Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.” -- Warren Buffett Ethical behavior and actions are the foundation of a successful business. The PR practitioner’s role in guiding these decisions and principles, both in day-to-day activities and in times of conflict or crisis, is on-going and can make the difference between long-term achievement and immediate, devastating failure. Transparency is critical in today’s fast-paced, information-access and situation-sharing world, especially when faced with difficult situations (Turn to Keith for Q & A and demonstration of resources on the ethics Web page)
  • Social Media Ethics: Letting the PRSA Code of Ethics Guide Your Behavior

    1. 1. Social Media Ethics Letting the PRSA Code of Ethics Guide Your Behavior September 29, 2011 Webinar
    2. 2. INTRODUCTION Deborah A. Silverman, Ph.D., APR Chair Board of Ethics and Professional Standards
    3. 3. Social Media activities that have damaged reputations and destroyed trust. <ul><li>FACEBOOK FIASCO: OUR INDUSTRY IS BETTER THAN THIS --- PR Week </li></ul><ul><li>FTC ISSUES $250,000 FINE FOR FAKE ONLINE REVIEWS </li></ul><ul><li>--- Ragan’s PR Daily </li></ul><ul><li>WHOLE FOODS CEO CRITICIZED RIVAL IN ANONYMOUS POSTS </li></ul><ul><li>--- Bloomberg News KENNETH COLE’S EGYPT TWEET OFFENDS JUST ABOUT EVERYONE ON TWITTER </li></ul><ul><li>--- AOL.News </li></ul>
    4. 4. Questionable social media behavior begs the question: CAN I TRUST YOUR ORGANIZATION AT ALL?
    5. 5. <ul><li>“ Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Warren Buffett </li></ul>Slide Source: Michael G. Cherenson, APR, Oct. 2008
    6. 6. How can PR Pros help establish trust for an organization or a brand? <ul><li>The Public Relations Society of America </li></ul><ul><li>Code of Ethics </li></ul><ul><li>A standard for ethical behavior and trust building </li></ul>
    7. 7. PRSA Code of Ethics <ul><li>Values </li></ul><ul><li>Fairness </li></ul><ul><li>Independence </li></ul><ul><li>Advocacy </li></ul><ul><li>Honesty </li></ul><ul><li>Expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Loyalty </li></ul><ul><li>Provisions </li></ul><ul><li>Free Flow of Information </li></ul><ul><li>Competition </li></ul><ul><li>Disclosure of Information </li></ul><ul><li>Safeguarding Confidences </li></ul><ul><li>Conflicts of Interest </li></ul><ul><li>Enhancing the Profession </li></ul>
    8. 8. Now let’s look at some real case examples of Social Media Ethical Dilemmas
    9. 9. Patrick McLaughlin, APR Caldo Communications Fairness Independence
    10. 10. Ethical Decision-Making Process <ul><li>Identify the ethical issue and/or conflict.   </li></ul><ul><li>Determine internal/external factors likely to influence your decision (financial, contractual, legal issues, etc.). </li></ul><ul><li>Choose key PRSA values that apply. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider parties who will be affected by your decision and your obligation to each one. </li></ul><ul><li>Select ethical principles to guide your decision making (see PRSA code provisions). </li></ul><ul><li>Make a decision. </li></ul>
    11. 11. <ul><li>Fairness </li></ul><ul><li>Deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public. </li></ul><ul><li>Required Actions for PR Pros: </li></ul><ul><li>Respect all opinions. </li></ul><ul><li>Support the right of free expression. </li></ul><ul><li>Build trust with the public by revealing all information needed for responsible decision making. </li></ul>
    12. 12. Social Media Fairness Situations <ul><li>Water district taps Google for good coverage </li></ul><ul><li>-- Los Angeles Times </li></ul><ul><li>,0,5172726.story </li></ul>
    13. 13. <ul><li>Independence </li></ul><ul><li>We provide objective counsel to those we represent to build the trust of clients, employers and the public. We are accountable for our actions. </li></ul><ul><li>Required Actions for PR Pros: </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest – for yourself, your organization, and your clients. </li></ul><ul><li>Speak up when others want to violate professional practice standards – be the voice of professionalism. </li></ul><ul><li>Speak truth to power – show the long-term value of ethical behavior and the consequences for unethical behavior. </li></ul>
    14. 14. Social Media Independence Situations <ul><li>Interns posting false reviews. </li></ul><ul><li>$250K REASONS TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE ‘BLOGGER RULES’ -- PRSAY </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    15. 15. Patricia Whalen, Ph.D., APR Whalen Communications Advocacy Honesty
    16. 16. <ul><li>Advocacy </li></ul><ul><li>We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. </li></ul><ul><li>Required Actions for PR Pros: </li></ul><ul><li>Tell your organization’s side of the story honestly without using misleading facts, spurious arguments or bogus emotional appeals. </li></ul><ul><li>Provide a voice for the organization through ideas, facts and viewpoints to aid informed public debate. </li></ul>
    17. 17. <ul><li>Social Media Advocacy Situations </li></ul><ul><li>DUKE NUKEM’S PR THREATENS TO PUNISH SITES THAT RUN NEGATIVE REVIEWS </li></ul><ul><li>-- </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Redner Group Loses Biggest Client Over Tweet -- Advertising Age </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    18. 18. <ul><li>Honesty </li></ul><ul><li>We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public. </li></ul><ul><li>Required Actions for PR Pros: </li></ul><ul><li>Maintain the integrity of relationships with the media, government officials, and the public. </li></ul><ul><li>Investigate the accuracy of information given to you. </li></ul><ul><li>Reveal sponsors for causes/interests. </li></ul><ul><li>Disclose financial interests. </li></ul>
    19. 19. Social Media Honesty Situations <ul><li>Marie Callender’s fake “intimate Italian restaurant” and hidden camera: </li></ul><ul><li>BLOGGERS DON’T FOLLOW THE SCRIPT, TO CONAGRA’S CHAGRIN – New York Times </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    20. 20. Ellen Hartman, APR, PRSA Fellow Hartman Public Relations Expertise Loyalty
    21. 21. <ul><li>We advance our profession through our continued professional development, research, and education. </li></ul><ul><li>Required Actions for PR Pros: </li></ul><ul><li>Know your craft and stay informed (read the code of ethics and the Professional Practice standards). </li></ul><ul><li>Build mutual understanding, credibility and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences. </li></ul>Expertise
    22. 22. Social Media Expertise Situations <ul><li>@Kennethcole </li></ul><ul><li>“ Millions are in an uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online. KC” </li></ul><ul><li>Kenneth Cole's Egypt Tweet Offends Just About Everyone on Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>--- AOL.News </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    23. 23. Loyalty We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to be honest and serve the public interest. <ul><li>Required Actions for PR Pros: </li></ul><ul><li>Act in the best interests of the client. </li></ul><ul><li>Protect the privacy rights of clients, organizations, and individuals by safeguarding confidential information, even when no longer employed by them. </li></ul>
    24. 24. Social Media Loyalty Situations <ul><li>Red Cross' Rogue Beer Tweet Brings in Donations </li></ul><ul><li>@Redcross </li></ul><ul><li>“ Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch bear….when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzerd” </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    25. 25. Bottom Line: Reputation is based on trust. Profits come from strong reputations. And strong reputations come from doing the right thing.
    26. 26. <ul><li>For more information about the </li></ul><ul><li>PRSA Code of Ethics go to: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>