Ethics…Black and White or Gray?

Ethics…Black and White or Gray?

Questions of ethics are often difficult to answer, and in this week’s lecture we learned about some of the ethical issues in the world of PR. The internet and social media make it easy to access and distribute information, which can be very beneficial, but when it comes to taking someones work and calling it your own, then we will have some problems.

While plagiarism, copyright infractions, etc. are clearly unethical, some other situations in PR may have a blurrier line of what is right and wrong. For instance, some copy-write law information is unclear, are we allowed to take a picture from the internet if it is common property? What is common property? Can you reproduce that picture on your website and not get sued?

The internet causes some interesting ethical issues.
Here is an interesting ethical dilemma that I’d like to get your feedback on. Ready for it? Ok. In the world of PR our main goal is to build relationships with our publics, and one of the ways to build relationships today is through social networking sites, blogs, etc. So what happens when the figure head of your organization is unable to write their own blogs, stay connected with friends on Facebook and answer questions on Twitter? That’s where a PR professional comes in and writes the blogs and connects with Facebook friends and answer questions on Twitter.

So here’s my question. Is it unethical for a PR practitioner to write a blog but pass it off as the figure head’s own work? Let me make that less confusing…

If you worked for the state government and the boss man needs to be a part of the social media scene but doesn’t have time enough to participate. Do you write the blog/join Facebook/Twitter, etc. on behalf of the person claiming to be the person? Do you write for them, but tell your publics you are writing for that figure head? Or do you just write the blog as yourself to avoid any ethical issues?

What factors do you consider when making this decision?

Do you have any other comments about ethics? If so, I want to hear them!

Here’s another thing to chew on…

Ethics are a funny thing, what is unethical to one person may be ethical to another person. So what are your thoughts on ethics? If you do no harm it’s ok? Do the ends justify the means? What are your thoughts?

Thanks for the comments and feedback everyone who is participating! I really appreciate it, so keep those ideas flowing!



3 Responses to “Ethics…Black and White or Gray?”
  1. Jamie says:

    I would write a blog for the boss man, but I would not claim it as his or hers; I would claim it as mine. The only time I would say that it came from the boss while I was typing would be if he or she was dictating to me or at least told me what to blog about. I have always wondered this about celebrities. Somehow I don’t think many celebs actually post on Twitter like they are claiming to.

  2. esear says:

    I think it is fine for the PR officer to write the blog if the boss reads it over and gives the approval before it is posted. I think the blog should indicate that these are the thoughts of the boss and that they were pre-approved before being posted.

  3. Jenny says:

    It’s funny because this thing happens at my current job all the time. However, I get the impression it’s common practice as well as expected by those receiving the info. Our communications department frequently drafts public statements and communication for our CEO. Even though she doesn’t write it–she usually does review it and gives her input and the final word, so to speak.

    Now, you want to talk ethics… I had to “fake” our old CEO’s signature for mailings because she was “too busy” to sign a sheet of paper herself. That’s somethign different all together.

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