Ethics – Platform Magazine https://platformmagazine.org University of Alabama Mon, 18 May 2020 14:53:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 Media Community Unites Against Disinformation at the Allen H. Center Distinguished Lecture in Public Relations https://platformmagazine.org/2020/05/18/media-community-unites-against-disinformation-at-the-allen-h-center-distinguished-lecture-in-public-relations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=media-community-unites-against-disinformation-at-the-allen-h-center-distinguished-lecture-in-public-relations Mon, 18 May 2020 14:53:31 +0000 https://platformmagazine.org/?p=22371 Published on May 18, 2020, at 9:52 a.m. by Alexis Hopper and Jillian Kopp, Guest Contributors. The media industry is suffering from public distrust. The driving force: disinformation. According to the Plank Center Communication Monitor, “More than 20% of surveyed professionals indicated that their organization and reputation were affected by fake news at least one [...]

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Published on May 18, 2020, at 9:52 a.m.
by Alexis Hopper and Jillian Kopp, Guest Contributors.

The media industry is suffering from public distrust. The driving force: disinformation. According to the Plank Center Communication Monitor, “More than 20% of surveyed professionals indicated that their organization and reputation were affected by fake news at least one time.” With today’s media climate surrounding COVID-19 and the upcoming election, disinformation is even more prevalent.

On March 10, journalists, students and public relations practitioners joined together for the third annual Allen H. Center Distinguished Lecture in Public Relations hosted by the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations. Attendees participated in several activities related to disinformation and taking action to combat it.

The Center Lecture is a lecture series in honor of Allen Center’s long-lasting legacy in public relations. Past speakers include Glen M. Broom, the namesake of the Broom Center, and Tina McCorkindale, president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations.

This year’s keynote speaker, retired two-star admiral and CNN analyst John Kirby, gave advice on how to attack disinformation head-on and led a Q&A session for attendees. He emphasized the importance of teaching media literacy in the community and fact-checking all sources.

Attendees watching John Kirby lecture on disinformation; photo captured by Ripsime Avetisyan at Center Lecture

Kirby knows the media industry from both sides of the microphone. As former Navy chief of information, Pentagon press secretary, spokesman for the State Department and current CNN analyst, he has a deep understanding of the world of journalism, media and disinformation.

“We the consumers and purveyors of news and information must prove willing to change the way we absorb and interpret that information,” said Kirby. “Until we do, no amount of regulation, legislation or cyber defenses are going to save us from the perils of disinformation.”

The event gave attendees the opportunity to create an open dialogue in becoming less vulnerable to disinformation. Kirby’s speech and activities, including “battle stations” and an interactive “how do you combat disinformation” display, armed attendees with new tactics to recognize and push back against false information. This display consisted of a black metal grate with cards tied onto it. On these cards, attendees were encouraged to write about how they currently combat disinformation.

Photo captured by Alexis Hopper at Center Lecture

For example, San Diego State University sophomore Kelsi Dugas said, “I find the truth by always reading more to look for consistency” on the “how do you combat disinformation” display.

Sometimes we are the ones responsible for spreading disinformation by amplifying the wrong message. “Really pay attention to who you’re retweeting, who you are believing, and who you are amplifying with their message,” said Dr. Kaye Sweetser, APR+M, Fellow PRSA.

Attendees discussing battle tactics to stop disinformation during the “battle station” activity; photo captured by Ripsime Avetisyan at Center Lecture

Attendees left this event with a clear perspective and actionable steps they can take to combat the spread of disinformation.

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Internal Crisis Communication https://platformmagazine.org/2020/04/29/internal-crisis-communication/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=internal-crisis-communication Wed, 29 Apr 2020 22:46:13 +0000 https://platformmagazine.org/?p=22311 Published on April 29, 2020, at 5:46 p.m. by Olivia Carroll. In a time of crisis, many companies immediately think of how to reassure their stockholders, clients and industry partners. However, it is just as important, if not more important, to first think of the internal public when a crisis occurs. Not only are these [...]

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Published on April 29, 2020, at 5:46 p.m.
by Olivia Carroll.

In a time of crisis, many companies immediately think of how to reassure their stockholders, clients and industry partners. However, it is just as important, if not more important, to first think of the internal public when a crisis occurs. Not only are these people employees, but they are more than likely consumers of their company as well.

Have a relationship with your people before things go wrong

Carrie Altieri, vice president of communications for people and culture at IBM, said, “You have to have established, good working relationships with all of the different parts of an organization before you are in the middle of a crisis.” Altieri noted that employees are potential ambassadors for the organization. If you wait until a crisis to cultivate a positive employee culture, you have likely already lost the trust of your internal public.

Courtesy of Windows on Unsplash

As Heidi Green in a Forbes article noted, “It’s not a matter of if your information will be shared externally; it’s a matter of when.” Reaching out to the internal public first ensures that the entire company is speaking as one unit and on-message. Dr. Laura Lemon, assistant professor in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama, referred to this inevitable sharing of internal information as the “backyard barbeque test.” When people ask employees what their company is doing in the face of a crisis, they should be able to answer clearly and on-message.

“Employees are at the heart of the organization and should be your priority. A pandemic should not be the reason to start going to your employees first,” said Dr. Lemon. A company can talk to its consumers all day, but if there are no employees to run the company, then the consumer audience does not matter.

Understand the ripple effect of leadership

Georgia Wright, global head of internal communications at Xero, said, “If you don’t look after your people, they won’t look after your customers. It has this ripple effect.” Making sure your leadership is well informed has the same effect. Employees tend to look up the chain of command for direction and, as Altieri noted, a crisis is an opportunity for leaders to emerge. It is important for leadership to know all of the information necessary so that they can help their teams in whatever way they might need. Wright said that Xero is currently focused on up-skilling its leadership teams to respond to their team’s concerns on COVID-19 related issues.

“Our CEO is catching up with our senior leadership team more often to coach them and give them the tools and capabilities to be able to cope with a tough landscape and help their teams through it,” said Wright. Altieri noted that IBM has convened its leaders in “Ask Me Anything” Slack channels based on topics such as helping their teams be resilient, how to help empower their teams and how to check on the mental well-being of their team members.

Courtesy of Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

In a crisis, leaders need to be authentic, honest and human. For Xero, this means increasing global all-hands video meetings from a month-to-month occurrence to weekly meetings. Wright said that their CEO personally leads these meetings, giving people “the good, the bad and the ugly” and then “he gives them enormous hope” for how the company is moving forward during this time. It is important to engage with all levels of employees in a company, but taking time to focus on giving leadership the tools and messaging to pass down to their teams has a ripple effect that will spread throughout the company.

Distribute more than necessary information
It is necessary for companies to distribute educational information about the situation at hand, but leaders must remember that their employees are human just like them. Wright said that companies must acknowledge the situation is tough and communicate honestly as they work together with the employees.

Internal communicators must find a balance between the types of content the employees want and the type of content that needs to be published. Some suggestions include distributing check-in surveys, calling to chat with team members, or even scheduling video calls to talk about non-work-related things or to host a happy hour.

When the concern on COVID-19 began to become more apparent, Altieri and IBM immediately began distributing information on “Tips for IBMers,” a page located on the company’s internal platform. This page holds practical information on travel and general restrictions, FAQs and more. IBM also distributed a message to IBMers from Lady Gaga, who recorded a message for them in response to a donation that IBM made to the World Health Organization.

Wright said the team at Xero has made use of fun platforms, such as TikTok, to distribute positive, engaging materials such as leadership showing what their home workspace looks like. In the middle of the stress and uncertainty, it is important to give employees some positive materials to keep their spirits high and help them to look forward.

Make the communication “beautiful and human”
Wright noted that Xero values being “beautiful and human.” She described beautiful communication as being clear and succinct with a beautiful look and feel. The best way to do this: human-to-human dialogue. Video messaging, like IBM News and Xero’s global all-hands meetings, is a form of communication that employees can connect with.

Courtesy of visuals on Unsplash

Wright said that human communication is down to earth, caring and ensures employees that they have a sense of belonging. In a crisis, internal communication must focus on caring for the employees in whatever way best fits the company and the culture.

Forbes contributor Sean Nolan advised, “People value certainty in times of disruption, so make sure your teams know they can rely on you to be there, both when and where they expect.”

Wright advocated for what she called “bite-size” information. She noted that companies should consider providing more communication with small bits of information instead of one large lump sum of information that weighs down on employees. Another method Wright is implementing is daily, if not every-other-day, message updates on an internal communications platform such as Slack. Small amounts of information distributed consistently show that the internal communication team is actively working to find answers, provide clarity and keep employees up to date with information.

Altieri said that in the middle of this crisis, there is an opportunity to provide clarity and help people understand that the company is committed to their well-being. She said, “There is a lot of confusion out there, and people don’t know where to turn for information. We can help provide a sense of clarity to them so that they say, ‘OK, I got it. I know what I need to do.’”

When a crisis occurs, a company’s internal public is the first public that the communications team should engage. For companies that did not have internal crisis communication ready, now is the time to prepare for when the next crisis occurs, as it undoubtedly will. Dr. Lemon noted, “This experience should ignite and encourage (companies) to have the processes and employee culture in place before something like this happens again.”

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You May Want to Read the Label https://platformmagazine.org/2020/04/16/you-may-want-to-read-the-label/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=you-may-want-to-read-the-label Thu, 16 Apr 2020 01:34:27 +0000 https://platformmagazine.org/?p=22206 Published on April 15, 2020, at 8:34 p.m. by Allie Rose. Skin. It is the largest organ in the human body. We wash it. We put makeup on it. We try to make it look its best. Shouldn’t we also do our best to take care of its health? Products that are designed to make [...]

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Published on April 15, 2020, at 8:34 p.m.
by Allie Rose.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Skin. It is the largest organ in the human body. We wash it. We put makeup on it. We try to make it look its best. Shouldn’t we also do our best to take care of its health?

Products that are designed to make you smell better, look better or feel better might be doing the exact opposite — and they’re doing it without you knowing. As the awareness of this issue has grown, the “clean beauty” trend has emerged. Beauty industry brands are supporting sustainability initiatives that advocate for clean products with ethical labeling.

Part of our job as public relations practitioners is to evaluate trends and how to be proactive on them for our clients. Trends do not necessarily mean action must be taken, but in this case for the beauty industry, they are worth being educated on.

 

Fragrance
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many everyday products contain fragrance. These products can range from haircare, skincare, laundry cleaners, air fresheners and even ointments used for therapeutic needs and first aid.

Cosmetics in the retail market must include a list of ingredients on their labels under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. “In most cases, each ingredient must be listed individually. But under U.S. regulations, fragrance and flavor ingredients can be listed simply as ‘fragrance,’” said the FDA.

These fragrance combinations can be a mixture of any number of things. The ingredients can be natural, but they can also be full of synthetics and chemicals. Manufacturers are not required to list what a “fragrance” encompasses because that is considered to be a trade secret — a trade secret that could be chock-full of harmful toxins.

The Clean Beauty Movement
“This trend is more of a movement that focuses on finding beauty products made with organic ingredients and seeking transparency from brands,” said Megan Foster, writer for the “Today” show.

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

As information spreads about the potential harm in products’ ingredients, consumers are beginning to turn to their tried-and-true brands for answers, transparency and alleviation of their health anxieties. Additionally, new brands are blazing the trail ahead, leading the way in making products that are cruelty-free and toxin-free from the start.

Defining “clean skincare” can be different across the board. The most common definitions require that products are cruelty-free, vegan and contain only organic ingredients.

Cruelty-free defines products whose ingredients have not been tested on animals. Vegan refers to products that do not contain any animal ingredients. Organic and natural products claim that their ingredients are not genetically modified (GMO) and do not contain preservatives, artificial coloring, chemicals, manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilizers.

You might be a little overwhelmed at this point by all the big words that could be in your favorite lotion or shampoo. Luckily for us, brands and businesses are beginning to embrace sustainable and ethical business practices.

While there are still many products that contain these chemicals on the shelves, brands are beginning to listen to what their consumers want: to be healthier and more informed about the everyday products they use.

There is even an app, called Think Dirty, available for users to scan products throughout stores to see how they rank on its cleanliness scale. The products receive a score out of 10 based on the ingredients they contain. You can scan household, beauty and personal care items to make yourself aware of the potential toxins items might contain.


Public relations professionals must always have their eyes and ears tuned in to consumer and business trends. Consumers are now asking for more transparency from brands about how their products are having an impact on their overall health.

Thus, we must listen to consumers and be quick to respond in order to address their concerns. While this may just be one of many trends, a central lesson can be learned for PR practitioners: Be authentic, be honest and be for the betterment of the consumer.

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Leveling The Playing Field https://platformmagazine.org/2020/04/10/leveling-the-playing-field/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leveling-the-playing-field Fri, 10 Apr 2020 00:39:33 +0000 https://platformmagazine.org/?p=22110 Published on April 9, 2020, at 7:39 p.m. by Macy Krauthamer. Sports are a fantastic way to socialize. They have a special ability to bring people together, regardless of race, age, religion, socio-economic class or gender. That said, women make up nearly half of the NFL’s fan base, yet women account for just a third [...]

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Published on April 9, 2020, at 7:39 p.m.

by Macy Krauthamer.

Sports are a fantastic way to socialize. They have a special ability to bring people together, regardless of race, age, religion, socio-economic class or gender. That said, women make up nearly half of the NFL’s fan base, yet women account for just a third of league employees, as reported by CBS News in 2018.

Globally, the sports industry is overwhelmingly male, while public relations is overwhelmingly female — positioning the women who work in sport public relations at the crossroads of two gendered industries. In a field traditionally run by men, women are fighting for a career amidst many other eager applicants.

Courtesy of Miya Ball

Female sports professionals credit determination and hard work. “Never give up. Before I got to Creative Artists Agency (CAA), I applied and interviewed for several jobs. Some of them, I would fill out the application and then receive an email a week later telling me that I didn’t get the job,” CAA sports professional Miya Ball said. “It was discouraging but I knew I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I applied for positions that most people right out of grad school wouldn’t, simply because I wanted the experience and have the ability to network.”

Both in culture and in numbers, the sports world remains a male-dominated industry; however, there is notable, visible progress for women. Women now hold positions that were formerly held by men. Very talented women are in positions of high visibility, such as Jennifer Welter and Laura Rutledge.

“I think it just shows that women can do it just as well or even better. There are so many women out there in the sports world, and they’re doing a great job,” said Jordan Doyle, manager of social media for the Chicago White Sox.

The amount of women working in sports is increasing, and interest in the sports industry is growing among budding females in communications. Public relations jobs in sports now include positions as agents, PR representatives for athletes or athletic firms, event marketers, and social media managers.

“There’s always a stereotype when you say you work in sports: ‘Oh, you work in sports, so are you like a news anchor or something?’ People just assume that, and I think it’s funny because I’m actually a camera operator, editor and producer,” explained Mary-Clare Brophy, social media correspondent at Learfield IMG College with the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.

Courtesy of Jordan Doyle

“Up until recently, all the major Chicago sports teams’ social media accounts were run by a woman,” Doyle said.

Today, women are collaborating on projects with athletes and are on the field interviewing the athletes. Unfortunately, there are still men who don’t see women as knowledgeable when it comes to sports. In a 2017 Cision article, Pedone, former CEO of Pro Players Sports Marketing Group Inc., said women pursuing a profession in sports need to focus on gaining knowledge to continue making breakthroughs professionally.

“As a woman in sports, it’s assumed that you don’t really know a lot, and that’s not always the case. If you want to know something, look it up, ask a question and do your research,” Brophy said. “You kind of have to know the right time to say something, but also you don’t have to be afraid to get out there and say what you want to say. Make your voice heard and just be confident.”

“Stay poised – working in sports, you never know what will be thrown at you, but it’s imperative that you always remain calm. Whenever I’m working on something, I always tell myself to think two steps ahead so I can mentally prepare myself for different scenarios,” Ball said.

Always have a professional mindset when networking and building relationships. In this field, genuine relationships matter; get to know people rather than simply asking someone for something in return, Ball emphasized. Connections are important to making a name for oneself in sports, Brophy explained.

Courtesy of Mary-Clare Brophy

“For me, with finding why I wanted to do this and getting [to where I am], the biggest thing was connections. I wouldn’t have gotten this job if my friend didn’t recommend me. Be prepared, always having your portfolio and résumé updated, and be knowledgeable about what you want,” Brophy said.

Ask people how to get involved, volunteer, intern. If they don’t have anything, then offer suggestions, “ask what they are working on, and take it upon yourself to ask how you can contribute, make yourself valuable,” Ball advised.

For women who might want to get into sports communication, it helps to have examples of successful women in the industry to look up to and show them it’s possible. In the sports community, there are networks to lift other women up and help one another succeed in this male-dominated industry.

“Be yourself and always act like you belong, because you do!” Ball concluded.

Gender does not and should not determine career goals and outcomes — hard work and perseverance do.

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PR, Ethics and the First Amendment https://platformmagazine.org/2020/02/26/pr-ethics-and-the-first-amendment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pr-ethics-and-the-first-amendment Wed, 26 Feb 2020 22:20:20 +0000 https://platformmagazine.org/?p=21668 Published on March 2, 2020, at 6:51 p.m. by Macy Krauthamer. Freedom of speech is crucial to the truth now more than ever — especially when it comes to public relations. It gives United States citizens the right to express their opinions and not disparage others. To be an ethical public relations practitioner, it is [...]

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Published on March 2, 2020, at 6:51 p.m.
by Macy Krauthamer.

Freedom of speech is crucial to the truth now more than ever — especially when it comes to public relations. It gives United States citizens the right to express their opinions and not disparage others. To be an ethical public relations practitioner, it is essential to familiarize oneself with the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Courtesy of Andrew Ruiz on Unsplash

“The First Amendment safeguards anyone in the communications field whether it’s journalism, advertising, public relations or marketing — whatever it is, they are all speech-based activities,” said Dr. Clay Calvert, Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communication for the Department of Journalism at the University of Florida and director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project.

PRSSA blog post stated that the First Amendment permits public relations professionals to communicate openly with the public by enabling “us to offer the best communication possible on behalf of our clients without having to appeal for government approval.” However, it also allows an organization’s publics to “freely express” their opinions. PR practitioners must view the First Amendment as a responsibility just as much as a right.

“There is a certain amount to which, as a public relations professional, I have to know those laws, and understand that the way in which I communicate does have some boundaries,” said Peter Carson, managing director of public affairs at Weber Shandwick,.

One of the hardest parts of the job is advising a client on what they should or should not say. For example, it might not be a good idea for the client to say something, but it certainly, in most instances is the constitutional right of that company or individual to make that statement. Here’s the tricky part of public relations: freedom of speech can be a double-edged sword.

“The freedom of speech is almost the freedom to decide whether or not you’re going to exercise that speech,” said Carson. “It’s an awesome power to know that you can, but also to decide that you’re not going to. It’s still your choice [either way].”

Courtesy of Austin Distel on Unsplash

With the rise of social media, people expect a company or brand to have a personality. This expectation makes it critical to stay aware of what is being said online and to constantly monitor comments so that client organizations can respond in a timely manner. PR practitioners must decide what to address or what to ignore because everything stated online about an organization does not always need to be addressed.

“You can’t shut [responses] down. You have to allow the negative comments to be on there and address them, even if this has to be done offline,” said Dr. Karla Gower, professor at The University of Alabama and director of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.

“It’s important that companies challenge things and speak out. Your publics can speak against you, so you should be able to speak out and share your company’s views of things too,” continued Gower.

Another difficult part of the job is following a client’s request — particularly when it does not line up with the direction, strategy or objective of the campaign. Sometimes ‘the ask’ may even be unethical. So it is important to ask oneself, “What would I want to know if I were the public?” and “Is what we’re doing right?” before making a decision. The First Amendment does not say anything about ethics, so it is up to PR professionals to exercise good judgment.

“Laws are like a minimum standard of behavior, whereas ethics is often above that,” said Gower. “Sometimes to be really ethical you have to go above what the law requires.”

Betsy Plank always said that to be a good PR practitioner one needs to have strong personal morals. In a democracy, it is very important to hear all sides and especially as an ethical PR practitioner giving a voice to organizations, brands or people. As PR practitioners, it is our duty not to abuse the freedoms of the First Amendment.

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Brands: We Trust Them, We Trust Them Not https://platformmagazine.org/2020/02/26/brands-we-trust-them-we-trust-them-not/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brands-we-trust-them-we-trust-them-not https://platformmagazine.org/2020/02/26/brands-we-trust-them-we-trust-them-not/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2020 01:22:04 +0000 https://platformmagazine.org/?p=21580 Published on February 25, 2020, at 7:22 p.m. by Faith Saucier. Brands: They’re product innovators, customer service experts, competent doers and, now, catalysts for change. Today, they are expected to take a stand, to make a difference, to be positive players in society. Corporations are trusted — more than the government, in fact. But this new [...]

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Published on February 25, 2020, at 7:22 p.m.
by Faith Saucier.

Brands: They’re product innovators, customer service experts, competent doers and, now, catalysts for change.

Today, they are expected to take a stand, to make a difference, to be positive players in society. Corporations are trusted — more than the government, in fact. But this new concept of trust is one that brands have never seen before.

It’s not about hopping on the bandwagon or spouting out a tear-jerking commercial. It’s an opportunity to take action on issues that align with your company’s values; a chance to expand on your company’s purpose; and a clear path to building better, stronger and longer-lasting relationships with your consumers.

Simply put, it’s an opportunity that brands should not pass up.

Consumers aren’t sure that they can trust brands to do the right thing for society, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report. Product-based considerations remain the dominant trust factor

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

for brands, with only 38% of consumers reporting trust in brands based on their societal impact. David Bersoff, Edelman Intelligence SVP of global thought leadership, said the imbalance arises from a concept called trust-washing, “when brands go out there with grand gestures, or anthems, or tear-jerking ads, but there’s nothing behind it.”

Trust-washing only leaves room for doubt, and according to Bersoff, there’s only one way to overcome the cynicism that we see in consumers today: “to actually follow through, and to follow through over the long term.”

Consumers aren’t going anywhere — along with their expectations — and they aren’t the only ones increasing pressure on businesses to act. According to the Aflac Corporate Social Responsibility Report in 2019, 74% of investors agree that large companies have a special responsibility for making the world a better place — a responsibility that is even more important than profits.

Catherine Blades, Aflac’s SVP, chief ESG and corporate communications officer, has seen a huge uptick of pressure from the investor community in the past year. “This isn’t going away,” said Blades. “This isn’t a moment; it’s a movement.”

Quite the movement it is. In 2020, the crusade continues, and brands must fall in line. Experts have discovered that trust is a balance that takes smart decision-making and an abundance of due diligence to maintain.

On the one hand, it’s a balance between purpose and profit. “It has to be about profit and purpose,” said Blades. “It has to be purpose that is authentic and aligned to a company’s values. But if a company isn’t making money, they aren’t going to have money in which to go out and do good in the first place. It’s going to take companies making decisions about what works best for their business, their employees and all of their stakeholders.”

On the other hand, it’s a function of competence and ethics. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that consumers see businesses as competent, but not terribly ethical. Bersoff also noted, “If we look at more trusted companies versus less trusted companies, ethics is a three times more powerful driver, or predictor, of trust than competence.”

Your company’s ability to produce a quality product or service still matters. All businesses must have a baseline competence, otherwise they would be unable to operate. But your company’s ethics are what sets your brand apart.

“You don’t get to be a viable company that’s worth measuring if you don’t already have some level of competence,” Bersoff said. “But ethics is the true battleground of brand differentiation when it comes to trust.”

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

It’s the battleground of belief-driven buying — the idea that a major purchasing consideration is based on brands taking a stand, or not taking a stand, on issues that matter to consumers. “The idea here is that people don’t leave their ideology outside when they walk into a grocery store or department store,” said Bersoff. “They carry that ideology in there with them.”

With that ideology comes an expectation to see and hear about what brands are doing to make a difference. According to Blades, 55% of consumers stated that companies should make their purpose a key component of their overall messaging, and she wants communicators to start talking. “All of the data tell me that basically if you’re not talking about purpose every chance you get, you’re really missing an opportunity with the majority of the market,” said Blades.

Bersoff also asserted the extreme importance of being a values-oriented, purpose-driven brand. “Being a values-oriented brand in a world where values matter more, and more people are belief-driven buying, is an opportunity to develop strong, lasting relationships that serve as insurance that your brand will still prosper in the face of disruption in the marketplace.”

That’s right, brands, your values matter. Your purpose matters. Your moral core matters. Most importantly, your actions matter.

For PR practitioners, it’s our job to help our clients and companies identify these core values and live by them every single day. It’s our job to tell our stakeholders about the commitments we successfully reached. It’s our job to encourage action that follows words.

For brands, an increase in trust won’t happen overnight, and there aren’t many brands that enjoy trust based on their societal impact. If you want your brand to be one of the first, start now. Live and die by your values, follow up with action, and get ready to enter the promised land of consumer trust.

According to Bersoff, “The brands that get out in front of this — the brands that build that kind of trust — are going to have longer, stronger relationships with their customers. Those customers are going to be more likely to be loyal to them, to defend them, to advocate for them, and even help them innovate and help the success of new products they put out into the marketplace.”

That is the kind of trust brands live for — trust that will make your brand stronger, bolder and more successful in the long run.

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A Disconnect in Authentic Human Connection https://platformmagazine.org/2020/02/21/a-disconnect-in-authentic-human-connection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-disconnect-in-authentic-human-connection Fri, 21 Feb 2020 00:52:20 +0000 https://platformmagazine.org/?p=21582 Published on February 20, 2020, at 6:52 p.m. by Katie Poedtke. Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. These three words hold a weight that is felt now more than ever. The changing social climate and technological advances of today are connecting people from all kinds of backgrounds, and the PR industry is taking it very seriously. Bringing people [...]

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Published on February 20, 2020, at 6:52 p.m.
by Katie Poedtke.

courtesy of @wocintechchat on Unsplash

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. These three words hold a weight that is felt now more than ever. The changing social climate and technological advances of today are connecting people from all kinds of backgrounds, and the PR industry is taking it very seriously.

Bringing people together is meaningless if there is no connection and acceptance of others. Agility PR Solutions explained the disconnect between what PR professionals want and what they really see in the workplace. Referencing a PRSA Foundation study, Agility PR Solutions revealed that most people believe a diverse workplace is beneficial and necessary. The problem is “only 27% believe they are currently working at an organization that is meaningfully or very diverse.” People see the need for diversity, but they either hesitate or don’t know what to do to fix the discrepancy.

Dr. Nilanjana Bardhan, a professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, observes the PR industry from her academic lens. The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations board member has come to the following conclusion:

“We have seen a lack of significant change.”

While many improvements have occurred in the public relations industry, there is still so much left to do. The following insights are stepping stones for everyone involved in the public relations industry and academia to reflect on.

Art of balance

Although there have been great advancements in recent years, there are still more areas that need help. Dr. Bardhan noted that even with more women and people of color in the industry, the disconnect continues; there are not enough women and people of color in leadership roles. The Plank Center’s 2019 Report Card discovered that the gender gap widened in the past couple of years. Women do not feel secure or valued in their positions. According to Harvard Business Review, women constitute 70% of the industry, but “they only make up 30% of agency C-suite executives.” The executives of the public relations industry do not reflect the employees within their very industry. That is not the only absence of demographic reflection.

Keith Burton, CEO of Grayson Emmett Partners and board member of The Plank Center, explained that if the PR industry does not reflect the diversity among its publics, there will always be a divide in the business. A great example of what to avoid: Barnes & Noble’s black history month campaign. The Hill described how the catastrophe was deemed “literary blackface” by critics. Inclusion could have prevented the failed campaign, especially when it comes to leadership positions. Different ethnicities, genders and lifestyles need to be represented in the workplace that is serving those communities. Burton illustrated the first step in making this change:

“Everyone has to have empathy. If you lack empathy, you have nothing.”

Retain, not recycle

As much as representation is needed, inclusivity is a key factor. It makes no difference how many people agencies and corporations recruit if they cannot retain their employees. If people do not feel included and valued, they will not stay. Forbes touched on this topic, stating that after bringing in all kinds of people, it is imperative to “invest in programs designed to enhance inclusion.”

Dr. Juan-Carlos Molleda, a tenured professor and dean at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, elaborated on the experiences his associates have encountered in the industry. The Plank Center board member explained that people will not thrive in an environment that is not welcoming. Support, guidance and coaching need to be accessible at every level to everyone, Molleda concluded. It’s good for business, and it’s even better for the employees’ experience.

Dr. Bardhan noted that “inclusivity is integral.” Without inclusivity, there is no chance for equity. The PR industry cannot treat people equally if they do not stick around. The foundation for retention is equity.

In our backyards

Actively contributing to our own regions will make all the difference, especially with younger generations. There are many differences in cities across the globe; understanding where people come from and what they’ve experienced will help foster diverse environments. It is equally as important to understand the region where an agency or company resides in.

Academia is the cornerstone for the industry. The process of recruiting and retaining diverse employees begins in the classroom. Regions that are predominantly white, such as SIUC and the University of Oregon, face more obstacles than those that are inherently more diverse. Dr. Molleda addressed the discrepancy by illustrating ways they can increase diversity. Scholarships bring in minority students, and then it is everybody’s job to make sure the students believe they are welcome and wanted. Dr. Molleda said, “We must all adapt to the context and characteristics” of the cultures, backgrounds, social economic statuses and more. The difference between rural communities and urban cities brings its own challenges as well. Professionals involved in public relations academia must account for possible differences like these.

Courtesy of @wocintechchat on Unsplash

Big cities such as New York and Chicago already have higher levels of diversity, and that helps immensely when working with publics who are just as diverse. Burton works in Chicago, and he notices the inclusive market. Although there are more resources for diversity in Chicago, Burton believes that is only a step forward — “We have to be a pacesetter.” There are always areas for growth; Burton said there is not enough black representation in the Chicago PR industry. Even in diverse regions, there is still work to do.

We determine the future

The future is inevitably moving toward a more diverse and accepting atmosphere. These changes are happening now, so the PR industry has two choices: idle or make a change.

In the past, people have stood silent as bystanders; that is no longer acceptable. According to The Chicago Reporter, white non-Hispanics will be in the minority of the United States within the next 30 years. Dr. Molleda observed this trend and declared, “Communities are changing — grow accordingly. Check your biases. Acknowledge your vulnerability. Take every topic into context. Be reflective.”

Dr. Bardhan’s final comments included a profound message: “Unless we can imagine the future, we can’t create the future.” PRSA’s statement on diversity and inclusion gives public relations professionals access to the necessary tools and guidelines to make improvements as an industry.

The choice lies before us. The PR industry cannot afford to idle. Great strides have already been taken toward a more diverse and inclusive industry; let’s continue the momentum.

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Happily Married: Crisis Communication and Ethics https://platformmagazine.org/2019/10/30/happily-married-crisis-communication-and-ethics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=happily-married-crisis-communication-and-ethics Wed, 30 Oct 2019 21:23:49 +0000 https://platformmagazine.org/?p=20764 Published on November 4, 2019, at 4:40 p.m. by Justine Groeber. Crisis communication and ethics are two keystones of the public relations industry. Every PR professional is ingrained with the knowledge of how to communicate effectively during a crisis and how to behave ethically in one’s public relations practice, but how closely related should these [...]

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Published on November 4, 2019, at 4:40 p.m.
by Justine Groeber.

Crisis communication and ethics are two keystones of the public relations industry. Every PR professional is ingrained with the knowledge of how to communicate effectively during a crisis and how to behave ethically in one’s public relations practice, but how closely related should these two things be?

Crisis communication can be defined as the “dialog between the organization and its public(s) prior to, during, and after the negative occurrence,” while ethics refer to “the process you follow to decide what is right or wrong.”

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

When a crisis arises, it can be easy to fall into unethical practices due to the high-stakes, fast-paced environment. However, ethical communication during a crisis is particularly crucial due to the widespread implications that crises often have. More often than not, what is morally correct might not be clear, and therefore organizations must consider what ethical communication looks like before, during and after the crisis.

When an organization integrates ethics into everything it is doing, ethical behavior comes naturally when a crisis emerges. Pat Philbin, CEO of Crisis1, said, “If that’s not part of your approach pre-disaster, it won’t be second nature during the disaster, and so all it’s going to do is create another disaster.”

Similarly, Dr. Suzanne Horsley, assistant dean of assessment, accreditation and diversity at the University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences, stated, “If it’s already part of your training and your practice, it would be like anything else that you have to talk about.”

While the emphasis on ethics in the public relations profession may lead some to believe that ethics and crisis communication are two separate entities, Philbin and Horsley agree that both should be treated as one and the same. Specifically, both professionals believe that training on ethics and training on crisis communication should be integrated with one another. Dr. Horsley explained, “The concepts of ethics need to be just as obvious in any type of training or guidance on crisis communication as the terms media relations or social media.”

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Being committed to ethics doesn’t only mean speaking honestly and openly during a crisis, but also acting as an advocate for every person one represents. Dr. Horsley noted that PR professionals must always use an inclusive perspective to avoid an ethical mistake later on. “When that crisis hits, if you don’t already have inclusion in place, then the groups that you excluded before, whether on purpose or not, are going to be further excluded,” she said.

PR professionals should also be aware that Warren Buffet’s well-known quote, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” has never rung truer. Social media and the advancements in technology have created an even faster-paced environment for those in the PR field. “We are being monitored frequently, so if you don’t want it out there, don’t say it or write it,” Philbin advised.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Those on social media expect organizations to be immediately responsive during a crisis due to the constant flow of information on these platforms. This expectation not only creates implications for crisis communication plans but also creates an unpredictable lifespan once a crisis breaks.

It’s important to note that, even in an attempt to have a civil conversation, “people can look at the same situation and walk away with completely different interpretations of what they saw,” Philbin stated. Likewise, when information is being transmitted through several different channels online, it can quickly become skewed and inaccurate. That is why integrating ethics into an organization’s framework is so important, because “even when your time is compressed, you aren’t going to have to stop and think about it as much,” Horsley said.

Emphasizing ethics is crucial to the public relations profession and should be more thoroughly integrated into crisis communication training. However, if you are in a situation where a crisis does break, remember that “the truth defends itself,” Philbin advised.

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Know Your Rights: Personal Data Protection https://platformmagazine.org/2019/10/18/know-your-rights-personal-data-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=know-your-rights-personal-data-protection Fri, 18 Oct 2019 20:00:04 +0000 https://platformmagazine.org/?p=20577 Published on October 18, 2019, at 3:00 p.m. by Kennedy Schwefler. I’ve caught my dad talking to our Amazon Alexa a couple of times now, asking, “Hey Alexa, are you recording me?” or “Hey Alexa, did you get that?” Ever since the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica privacy breach, it seems that the public’s concern with personal [...]

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Published on October 18, 2019, at 3:00 p.m.
by Kennedy Schwefler.

I’ve caught my dad talking to our Amazon Alexa a couple of times now, asking, “Hey Alexa, are you recording me?” or “Hey Alexa, did you get that?”

Ever since the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica privacy breach, it seems that the public’s concern with personal data is reaching new heights. Our digital footprint has turned into a digital monster. What exactly do these high-tech companies know about us?

The success of an organization’s public relations is based on relationships with its stakeholders. If these stakeholders don’t trust the organization, all public relations efforts are lost causes.

With multiple large data breaches in the 21st century, 72% of VMware study responses said that businesses

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

and governments are not transparent enough about the technologies they use. Technology evolves overnight, and it sometimes seems like there’s no way to safeguard users’ personal data.

In the United States, there isn’t one comprehensive piece of legislation that protects users’ personal data; however, the Obama Administration attempted to provide a catalyst for policy that protects data privacy in 2012. The bill’s goal was to “preserve consumer trust and promote innovation.” Unfortunately, it fell victim to poor timing and never passed.

Today, there has been little change in United States legislation regarding digital protection. This policy stalemate labels the country as a global outlier.

Courtney Firth, a publicist at Covet Public Relations, noticed this lag in reform as well. She is from the United Kingdom, and her family lives there to this day

“There’s a lot more regulation in the U.K. and many other countries compared to the United States,” said Firth.

The European Union passed The General Data Protection Regulation in 2018 to define the future of data usage. It specifies rights and restrictions of users and gives examples of situations to clarify. Additionally, the 2018 Data Protection Act is another piece of legislation protecting people living in the U.K.

Organizations in the United States must learn and comply with these new laws if their businesses have consumers in countries that observe data protection laws.

“If we know a company we’re working with has a different set of policies, we’re very wary of that as we go ahead and make sure we’re compliant with those rules,” said Katherine Davis, a digital account executive for Alloy, a digital strategy and website specialty business.

While these laws stop organizations in the European Union from abusing users’ personal information, there’s no restrictive legislation deterring businesses in the United States.

There is one universal principle to build and maintain trust from stakeholders: remain transparent. The more businesses keep private, the more room there is for suspicion.

“[Privacy breaches] are a really hard thing to come back from,” said Becci Hart, president of public relations at Intermark Group.

Hart has firsthand experience with data misuse from superstore Walmart’s online entity. She has not interacted with the brand since.

What are we really consenting to when we mindlessly check “I agree” on various terms and agreements?

Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

People are signing over their digital privacy and freedom to see “What kind of dog are you?” or download an app that’ll stay on their phone for maybe two days.

Today, everything has roots in the digital realm; Wi-Fi is modern-day oxygen and cell phones are a lifeline.

“It’s going to be a bigger hill to climb because people don’t care that their data is being shared and even stolen because it’s so normalized in society,” said Firth.

The concern with big tech companies storing our information is the digital profile it creates for each user once all the data points come together. People may not care about whether Google Maps tracks a person’s location for a couple of hours, but when that information is paired with what websites that person frequently visits, that’s where the digital profile starts to build.

Davis also talks about how it’s not just data that’s being collected – it’s activity as well.

When a site serves visitors a pop-up asking “Leaving this site?” it’s not a friendly check-in. The program tracks mouse movement to the search bar and tries to keep visitors for as long as possible.

She offered a solution to help organizations remain transparent regarding their data tracking:

“Inform your consumers as they’re going through filling out their information,” she said. “When you look

Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash

at specific fields, e.g., when they ask for your birthday, it might be helpful for companies to give an explanation right then and there that breaks out why they’re asking for that information.”

While data rights are important for everyone to know, it is especially pertinent to public relations practitioners. One of the most important duties of a public relations professional is protecting an organization’s brand. PR professionals are ethical advocates for businesses and expected to know how each sector of the company affects its image and position. The smallest mishap of data sharing may negatively alter a business forever.

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Ethics Start with You https://platformmagazine.org/2019/09/24/ethics-start-with-you/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethics-start-with-you Tue, 24 Sep 2019 15:32:04 +0000 https://platformmagazine.org/?p=19620 Published on September 24, 2019, at 10:32 a.m. by Emma Bannen and Whitney Blalock. Every public relations professional, student and educator is familiar with ethics. But what does this buzzword really mean in action? The Public Relations Society of America’s code of ethics is the industry standard for ensuring ethical conduct. It reads, in part, [...]

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Published on September 24, 2019, at 10:32 a.m.
by Emma Bannen and Whitney Blalock.

Every public relations professional, student and educator is familiar with ethics. But what does this buzzword really mean in action?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The Public Relations Society of America’s code of ethics is the industry standard for ensuring ethical conduct. It reads, in part, “To conduct myself professionally, with truth, accuracy, fairness, and responsibility to the public.”

“Being an ethical PR professional starts with being an ethical person,” said Collin Burwinkel, an assistant account executive at Ketchum.

It involves establishing your own ethical code, finding an organization that aligns with your values and forming open communication pathways with those around you.

Honoring your own ethics
With the PRSA code of ethics as your guide, develop your own custom code. Think about morals and values that are important to you and what you’re not willing to compromise. Where do you draw the line? What tasks or assignments would you not feel comfortable completing?

Andrew Cook, an assistant account executive at Edelman, said open conversations with his college professors and professionals in the PR industry paired with real-world ethics initiatives through the Public Relations Student Society of America helped develop his own moral foundation.

Even activities that are not necessarily PR-related can contribute to developing your ethical code. CJ McCormick, managing account supervisor at Ketchum, credits her work with her university’s newspaper as an important factor in establishing her personal ethics. Reporting for the paper taught her to be detail-oriented, as well as truthful and fair in the way she quoted her sources.

You know yourself best, so examine what you believe at your core and go with those gut inclinations.

Once you’ve formed your personal code, honor it. Siarra Hollingsworth, a senior consultant in healthcare communications at Booz Allen Hamilton, said it is imperative you stay grounded in your roots and true to who you are.

“It’s really important to never compromise your morals because, at the end of the day, your reputation is what you have to take with you,” said Hollingsworth.

“In life in general — inside of work, outside of work — you have to be you, you have to represent yourself,” explained Hollingsworth. “You’re no longer this collective group of students or just your friends anymore; you really branch out and you have to stand your ground.”

Seeking an organization with similar values
When searching for an internship or job, carefully research organizations to find the best fit. It can be easy to apply for every open position and jump at each opportunity in the hopes of securing a job, but finding an organization that aligns with your morals will make all the difference.

Hollingsworth encouraged exploring the company’s website, meeting for coffee and informational interviews, and visiting the headquarters to get to know the organization’s character on a deeper level. Familiarizing yourself with the people who make up the company will give you a glimpse into the culture, values and ethics of the organization.

“I evaluated the organizations that I was looking to work for, and knew I wanted to go somewhere where ethics was at the forefront and that they were going to make the right decisions, going to work with the right clients,” said Hollingsworth.

For Cook, learning about Edelman’s three core values — relentless pursuit of excellence, freedom to be constantly curious and courage to do the right thing — is what drew him to the company. Edelman’s values aligned with Cook’s, a great fit.

“At Edelman, we have a really strong culture and everyone is encouraged to do the right thing,” said Cook. “It’s a really supportive environment and there’s an expectation to live up to those ethics.”

Always remember it is important to interview the organization just as much as its employees are interviewing you. Finding an environment that aligns with your morals where you can thrive is vital, and doing your due diligence in researching the company will certainly help.

Burwinkel echoed this sentiment, saying that he chose Ketchum because its morals aligned with his own.

As Hollingsworth noted, “It’s so easy to feel like you can’t take the reins on this and that they have to pick you, but you have to pick them, too. It’s important that you feel comfortable and supported and happy.”

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Building relationships and open communication
Once you’ve found an organization that aligns with your values, it is essential to begin building relationships with your colleagues. Get to know your supervisor or the person you sit next to. This familiarity will make it easier to seek guidance if you encounter an ethical dilemma.

PR agencies can foster success and avoid ethical crises by establishing open lines of communication and promoting relationships between co-workers. When people feel comfortable with whom they work, they are able to openly discuss ethical dilemmas and tackle them together.

Burwinkel said that having good relationships with managers is “embedded in the culture” at Ketchum. “When you have that good relationship with your supervisors, you can really have those open and honest conversations,” he added.

Strong relationships between supervisors and those they manage facilitate open communication about ethics. It is crucial that agencies and individuals create space for those conversations to take place when needed.

As the former intern manager and a current senior account executive for Porter Novelli, Kristen Ellis held weekly meetings with her intern to facilitate “two-way communication that was open and easy.” She wanted this time to be free for the intern to bring up any questions or concerns they had.

Ellis said, “When you don’t fear being reprimanded, you’re more likely to talk to your superiors about something that potentially makes you uncomfortable, knowing that they respect you as a professional and trust your intentions.”

Cook added that building a trusting relationship with your supervisor makes it easier to approach them with any “grey area” questions that might lead to miscommunication. Sometimes ethical dilemmas simply stem from a misinterpretation of what is being asked.

Establishing strong ties with co-workers will put you ahead of the game when it comes to ethics. It is always beneficial to have someone to go to when you face an ethical challenge. The more comfortable you are with your co-workers, the easier this will be.

Being ethical is simply the expectation of any PR professional, not an added qualification, said McCormick.

Acting ethically is always the best option, even if it’s not the easiest. Though ethics may seem like a daunting concept, following this process will allow you to identify and maintain your own ethical code.

Although new technologies and trends will arise, the standards of “honesty, transparency and fairness” will always be the benchmark for ethical PR, according to Ellis.

In the words of McCormick, “The situation will change, but the fundamentals will always stay the same.”

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