Posts Tagged ‘ethics’


Changing the World One PR Professional at a Time

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014
Gini Dietrich PRSSA SIUE BurrellesLuce Media Monitoring Public Relations PR Software Press clipping

Dietrich snaps a selfie wtih PRSSA SIUE students

by Kiley Herndon*

As a future public relations professional, it is my imperative to kill the infamous “spin doctor” stereotype that has so infested the truth we all know of public relations. Friday, September 19, Gini Dietrich, author of the blog and book Spin Sucks, spoke at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), where I am president of our PRSSA chapter, about how to disassociate “spin” and PR.

Dietrich first talked about our favorite celebrity, Miley Cyrus, and the brilliant case study she presents with her transition from Disney’s Hannah Montana to the Miley we all know today. Hannah Montana “was murdered,” Miley Cyrus explained on Saturday Night Live, like we must murder negative stereotypes of PR.

Gini Dietrich Spin Sucks BurrellesLuce PRSSA SIUE Media Monitoring Public Relations PR softwareCyrus’s intentional transition from child star to sexualized pop icon was the exact kind of marathon PR that professionals try to emulate. As Dietrich explained, “we are not wizards, there’s no one behind the screen.” Although a client might want to be on the front page of The New York Times tomorrow, we know that, even if we get that front page, it is not the end of the story. As professionals, we must strive to finish their story and help our clients to become transparent and lasting. Like Miley, we have to know our audience, our mission, and the most effective way to accomplish our goals with lasting impressions.

Dietrich also spoke to our crowd of eager future professionals about ethics, fitting for the month of September with PRSA, since September is dedicated to discussing ethics in PRSA. We learned that using fake accounts to post positive comments about our organization is unethical. Further, she challenged us to decide if it is ethical to write op-eds for executives and not state that a firm produced all the content.

Dietrich suggests we may be moving to a time when executives are forced into a state of actual transparency. This would suggest that future practices will require op-eds and other PR-produced content to state whether or not a firm authored the piece. Though the concepts of “spin” and media manipulation seem to plague our every move as PR professionals, it must be our mission to defeat that tyrant of a stereotype and get the first and most accurate story. Dietrich quotes TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington who stated, “Getting it right is expensive, getting it first is cheap.” Such remarks are exactly what we must combat to prove the ethical standards we hold ourselves to.

As I walked away from Dietrich’s presentation, I felt heightened vigor for public relations and knew the passion I have for the field is what can rid “spin” from outside definitions of PR. Consciously working in an ethical manner is the first step to achieving this transition. I do believe Dietrich was correct; we can change the world. Haven’t we already begun?

Photos by Kiley Herndon

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About the author:

My name is Kiley Herndon and I am a senior English major at SIUE. I am the SIUE PRSSA chapter President, Marketing Officer of Student Government, and social content intern at Robust Wine Bar. I love to travel, read, and, oddly enough, research. I cannot wait to graduate in May!

Three Updates to Journalism Ethics PR Pros Should Care About

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

SPJ Code of Ethics Public Relations PR Media Monitoring PR Software Press Clipping News ClippingLast weekend, the Society of Professional Journalists revised their code of ethics. There are two great reasons public relations pros should care: because PRs interact so frequently with journalists, and because being a PR pro now includes a lot of content creation and involvement in content marketing. While that doesn’t necessarily make you a member of the media, the SPJ standards provide an excellent guideline to follow in creating content.

The revisions address anonymous sources, which are an ethical rats’ nest. While anonymous sources might sometimes be the only way to break a story, when journalists protect their anonymity, it makes them and their information nearly impossible to verify (and we all know fact checking is vital). Journalists can also find themselves facing severe legal penalties, and even jail time, for not revealing their sources.

The new ethics code urges journalists to clearly identify sources and question the sources’ motives. Anonymity should be reserved for “those who may face danger, retribution, or harm.”

So if you’re ever talking to a journalist to give information, think twice about requesting anonymity, as it may conflict with the ethics journalists strive to follow.

The new code also addresses paying for interviews. Poynter reports that the previous code stated journalists should “avoid bidding for news,” while the update states unequivocally, “Do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.”

In the same post, Poynter also noted that the Radio and Television Digital News Association has introduced its new proposed code of ethics, the first update in 14 years. Perhaps the most modern update is this one:

“Scarce resources, deadline pressure and cutthroat competition do not excuse cutting corners factually or oversimplifying complex issues. ‘Trending,’ ‘going viral’ or ‘exploding on social media’ may increase urgency, but these phenomena only heighten the need for strict standards of accuracy.”

These are all excellent reminders to pros in the journalism and public relations industries.

What do you think about the proposed revisions? How do you think they complement PRSA’s Member Code of Ethics?

Best Practices for Ethical Native Advertising

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Best Practices Ethical Native Advertising Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasNative advertising has been enjoying considerable resurgence the past year, due in no small part to its potential to be mutually beneficial to advertisers and publications. Traditional sources like The New York Times are embracing native advertising as part of their strategy, with “high hopes” for its payoff. They follow online sites like Buzzfeed, Mashable, and The Huffington Post, all of which have already been using their editorial and production departments to generate sponsored content.

Native advertising is becoming more main stream, but that’s not the end of the conversation. Native advertising occupies such a gray area that the Federal Trade Commission titled a conference about native advertising after Robin Thicke’s popular but unfortunately misogynistic song “Blurred Lines.” Advertorial-wise, these out-of-focus lines arise when paid content resembles editorial content.

Why does this matter to PR pros? One of the appeals of native advertising is the chance to catch the attention of and appeal to a certain audience segment and receive instant feedback to reader reactions. In its worst cases, native advertising is a bait-and-switch routine; in its best, it’s an informative, useful item that also happens to be paid for.  Enter the FTC, which hopes that not only will there be a clear demarcation between editorial content and native advertising, but that the advertisers and marketers will self-regulate.

There’s nothing unethical about native advertising, as long as it’s clear to the reader that it’s sponsored. Of course, defining “clear” is a murky process, but we’re not here to define any guidelines; we’re here to look at ethics and best practices that PR pros can employ for native advertising. And many marketing or advertising pros aren’t so keen on labeling their advertisement, fearing that it undermines the purpose of the advertorial in the first place. But this fear may be misplaced, as some preliminary research shows that a third of consumers don’t care if content is an advertisement or editorial, and that many would be more likely to select an item if they knew it was an ad.

Being an ethical PR practitioner means that you don’t want to compromise a journalist’s ethics, either. And since one of the tenets of ethical journalism, according to the Society of Professional Journalists (SJP), is to “Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two,” the best way to start is with transparency instead of worrying about labeling the ad. This includes not only a label stating that it’s sponsored, but also physical demarcation such as borders and a different font. The FTC stressed, however, working towards such transparency should be a joint responsibility of publication and marketer.

During the FTC workshop, advertising widgets such as Outbrain or Tabula were a popular topic, however FTC staff pointed them out as specific examples of native advertising which were difficult to distinguish form editorial content.

The lack of hard and fast rules means that communication between PR/marketing/advertising and the publication is absolutely necessary. One way to do this is to work with outlets like Buzzfeed, which creates branded content in tandem with sponsors. It’s up to the outlet to ensure that in creating both editorial and advertorial content that journalism ethics are upheld.

An excellent resource to help ensure native advertising meets existing regulations is the FTC’s .com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, and make sure to check it for periodic updates.

How do you work with ethical issues in native advertising? Will the FTC’s findings impact content marketing pieces picked up by another outlet, and what implications would there be?

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch tells AOL, ‘Give us back editorial control or turn us loose’

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
Wall Street Bull

Flickr Image: Craig S.

Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, a blog focusing on technology startups, continues to cause quite a stir in the journalism world. Arrington announced last week that he is starting his own fund (CrunchFund), with the help of AOL, that will invest in small startup companies and has been under a barrage of criticism, mostly from journalists, for this unique arrangement.

Their main complaint is that Arrington, and other TechCrunch writers, can use the site, a highly trafficked blog ranking number 2 on Technorati’s list of Top 100 blogs (as of today), to potentially post comments and promote the same companies his fund holds positions in. 

As reported by Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times, the journalism world is claiming this type of arrangement violates the covenant of all journalism; reporters should avoid conflicts of interest by maintaining distance from the people, organizations and issues they cover. And, once again, fuels the debate over whether bloggers should be held to the same standards as journalists.

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Ethics in the News and PR: Gini Dietrich, Spin Sucks, Interview With Johna Burke, BurrellesLuce, at the 2011 Counselors Academy

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Transcript –

JOHNA BURKE: Hello, this is Johna Burke with BurrellesLuce, and we’re here at Counselors Academy in Las Vegas. I’m joined by Gini.

Gini, will you please introduce yourself?

GINI DIETRICH: I’m Gini Dietrich. I own Arment Dietrich in Chicago, and I’m also the author of Spin Sucks and Spin Sucks Pro.

BURKE: Fantastic. Gini, you know, there’s a lot of talk about ethics with some of the current news events going on, and I would just like to get your perspective on how you educate and work with your clients and with your staff on how to be ethical in all of their activities.

DIETRICH: Yes. So, you know, I mean, one of our values is ethics, and being very ethical and being very honest. And of course, Spin Sucks is the fight against destructive spin, so it’s very integrated into our culture and into our values. We actually have one client who will say, `Why won’t you let us do that?’ And we always say, `Because it’s not ethical.’ And he’s always like, `But why?’ And so, you know, we have a really good rapport with him in helping him understand why certain things are ethical why certain things are not. And it’s really an ongoing education process because there’s so many bad examples in our industry. So we just keep educating and just keep talking about it.

BURKE: Gini, thank you so much. I think holding that line will continually elevate and educate those about public relations and all the value that can bring. Where can people connect with you online and in social media?

DIETRICH: So Twitter is Facebook–or not Facebook–ginidietrich. Spinsucks.com is the blog, and then facebook.com–facebook.com/armentdietrich is our page.

BURKE: Thanks so much, Gini.

DIETRICH: Thanks for having me.