Social Media Ethics Facebook & Twitter & Pinterest, Oh My! Tips for the Ethical Social Media Practitioner Deborah A. Silverman, Ph.D., APR Chair PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards May 29, 2012
Social Media activities that have damaged reputations and destroyed trust. FACEBOOK FIASCO: OUR INDUSTRY IS BETTER THAN THIS --- PR Week FTC ISSUES $250,000 FINE FOR FAKE ONLINE REVIEWS --- Ragan’s PR Daily WHOLE FOODS CEO CRITICIZED RIVAL IN ANONYMOUS POSTS --- Bloomberg NewsKENNETH COLE’S EGYPT TWEET OFFENDS JUST ABOUT EVERYONE ON TWITTER ---AOL.News
Questionable social media behavior begs the question: Can I Trust Your Organization At All?
“Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.” -- Warren Buffett Slide Source: Michael G. Cherenson, APR, Oct. 2008
How can PR pros help establish trust for an organization or a brand? The Public Relations Society of America Code of Ethics A standard for ethical behavior and trust building
PRSA Code of Ethics Values Fairness Independence Advocacy Honesty Expertise Loyalty Provisions Free Flow of Information Competition Disclosure of Information Safeguarding Confidences Conflicts of Interest Enhancing the Profession
Ethical Decision-Making Process Identify the ethical issue and/or conflict. Determine internal/external factors likely to influence your decision (financial, contractual, legal issues, etc.). Choose key PRSA values that apply. Consider parties who will be affected by your decision and your obligation to each one. Select ethical principles to guide your decision making (see PRSA code provisions). Make a decision.
Now let’s look at some real case examples ofSocial Media Ethical Dilemmas
Fairness • Deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public. • Required Actions for PR Pros: • Respect all opinions. • Support the right of free expression. • Build trust with the public by revealing all information needed for responsible decision making.
Social Media Fairness Situations Water district taps Google for good coverage --Los Angeles Times http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-central-basin-20110913,0,5172726.story Google News cuts links to website the next day: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/14/local/la-me-central-basin-google-20110914
Independence • We provide objective counsel to those we represent to build the trust of clients, employers and the public. We are accountable for our actions. • Required Actions for PR Pros: • Avoid real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest – for yourself, your organization, and your clients. • Speak up when others want to violate professional practice standards – be the voice of professionalism. • Speak truth to power – show the long-term value of ethical behavior and the consequences for unethical behavior.
Social Media Independence Situations Interns posting false reviews. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/technology/27ftc.html?_r=1 $250K Reasons To Pay Attention To The ‘Blogger Rules’ -- PRSAY http://prsay.prsa.org/index.php/2011/03/25/revisiting-ftc-blogger-rules/
Advocacy • We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. • Required Actions for PR Pros: • Tell your organization’s side of the story honestly without using misleading facts, spurious arguments or bogus emotional appeals. • Provide a voice for the organization through ideas, facts and viewpoints to aid informed public debate.
Social Media Advocacy Situations Duke Nukem’s PR Threatens To Punish Sites That Run Negative Reviews -- Wired.com http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/06/duke-nukems-pr-threatens/ Redner Group Loses Biggest Client Over Tweet --Advertising Age http://adage.com/article/digital/redner-group-loses-biggest-client-tweet/228225/
Honesty • We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public. • Required Actions for PR Pros: • Maintain the integrity of relationships with the media, government officials, and the public. • Investigate the accuracy of information given to you. • Reveal sponsors for causes/interests. • Disclose financial interests.
Social Media Honesty Situations Marie Callender’s fake “intimate Italian restaurant” and hidden camera: Bloggers Don’t Follow The Script, To Con Agra’s Chagrin– New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/07/business/media/when-bloggers-dont-follow-the-script-to-conagras-chagrin.html
Expertise • We advance our profession through our continued professional development, research, and education. • Required Actions for PR Pros: • Know your craft and stay informed (read the Code of Ethics and the Professional Standards Advisories). • Build mutual understanding, credibility and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.
Social Media Expertise Situations @Kennethcole “Millions are in an uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online. KC” Kenneth Cole's Egypt Tweet Offends Just About Everyone on Twitter -- AOL.News http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/03/news/companies/KennethCole_twitter/index.htm http://mashable.com/2011/02/03/kenneth-cole-egypt/
LoyaltyWe are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to be honest and serve the public interest. Required Actions for PR Pros: Act in the best interests of the client. Protect the privacy rights of clients, organizations, and individuals by safeguarding confidential information, even when no longer employed by them.
Social Media Loyalty Situations @Redcross “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch bear….when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzerd” http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/17/smallbusiness/dogfish_redcross/index.htm http://www.aolnews.com/2011/02/17/rogue-beer-tweet-by-red-cross-employee-leads-to-donations/
Bottom Line: Reputation is based on trust.Profits come from strong reputations.And strong reputations come from doing the right thing.
For more information about the PRSA Code of Ethics go to: http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/
PRSA Ethics Month - September • Two Tweet chats • Webinar – chapter ethics officers, other PRSA members, PRSSA students • Ethics article in Tactics • PRSAY blog posts • Trans-Atlantic Ethics Summit with PRSA’s British counterpart (CIPR – Chartered Institute of Public Relations)
Questions? • Dr. Deborah Silverman, APR • Associate Professor of Communication • Buffalo State College • Email: email@example.com • Phone: 878-3606