Posts Tagged ‘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.


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. is the blog, and then– is our page.

BURKE: Thanks so much, Gini.

DIETRICH: Thanks for having me.

Top Five Most-Read BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas Posts in May 2011: Twitter Chat Transcripts, MySpace vs. Facebook, and more.

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Twitter Chat Transcripts twitter-bird-2
BurrellesLuce has made it easy for you to see the latest transcripts from the industry’s top social media chats and community events all in one place.


MySpace vs. Facebook: Which Site is the Current Cool Kid? MySpace vs Facebook: Who is the current cool kid? (A BurrellesLuce Image)
Sometimes it’s not so easy to tell “cool” from “un-cool” – especially when it comes to social networks and professionals who want to be with the “in crowd.” Although Facebook trumps MySpace with their overall number of users, organizations debating on which site to use should research the demographics and lifestyles of the key users they wish to target and focus their message and branding appropriately. Then they can be sure that both their company and clients are “cool” because they resonate with the preferred target audience.



PRSA 2010 Counselors Academy- Ann Subervi, Utopia Communications & Johna Burke BurrellesLuce

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Transcript -

JOHNA BURKE: Hello, everyone. This is Johna Burke at the–with BurrellesLuce at the Counselors Academy for PRSA, and we’re here with Ann.

Ann, will you please introduce yourself?

ANN SUBERVI: Sure. My name is Ann Subervi. I am the chair of the Counselors Academy and I also present workshops on ethics.

BURKE: And you just gave a presentation on ethics, and one of the most baffling things to me is why that was not a full house in there. And what is your experience with the PR group, why they aren’t more focused on ethics even knowing that the association has a special month dedicated to ethics? What are some of those challenges and what are some of the ways that you can maybe take some of the intimidation out of the subject matter for people so that they’ll be more engaged?

SUBERVI: Well, that’s a great question. I think public relations practitioners tend to focus on the tactical when it comes to training. They teach people how to write, they teach people how to pitch, they teach people how to present, but they don’t teach them about ethics. And when employees hear that they may have to go to an ethics presentation, they worry that this is going to be a lecture about doing good, and right and wrong. But in fact, ethics can be broken down into a process. It involves what are the rules and regulations that govern our industry? It involves knowing how to think through difficult situations and come out to the best possible conclusion.

It’s training on working with groups and group dynamics to figure out an ethical dilemma. And it’s practice, it’s role-play. It’s understanding, from the head of the agency or from the head of the organization that you work for, what is expected of you, and are you supported when you make an ethical decision? So when you take some of the blurry lines away from it and really look at it as a training program, as practical information, I think it becomes less intimidating and more interesting for people.

BURKE: I think one of the most powerful things that you said in the presentation was just remember that the way you think about things isn’t the same way that your client thinks about things, making that all the more important for PR people to have a good understanding about that so they can retain those relationships.

SUBERVI: Absolutely. And, you know, when you are ethical and you give clients great solutions that make them look great, you win, they win. And that’s really what it’s all about.

BURKE: Ann, thanks so much. Where can people find you on your website or social media?

SUBERVI: Sure. I have a blog called The Ethical Optimist at, and you can find my company at

BURKE: Great. Thank you so much for your time.

SUBERVI: You’re welcome.