The Ethics of PR and Social Media

The discussion of ethics never fails to emerge in one of my courses at least once a semester. This semester, it was brought up in my Social Media course, which is a special topics class within the public relations track here at Temple University. This course is designed to provide an understanding of social networks and basic proficiency in the use of social media in public relations, reputation management and competitive messaging. With this in mind, it is no surprise the ethics conversation was bound to come up.
Every aspiring PR pro knows that PRSSA has their own Code of Ethics that members must adhere to but, after graduating, is ethics truly ever discussed again? I would like to think yes, but in reality, I do not think it is a popular topic of conversation once we enter the workforce unless, that is, if you violate your company or organization’s ethical ideals.
The ethics of PR discussion, though seemingly a common sense conversation, is vital to be a successful public relations professional. Here are the top six, easy to remember ethical standards every PR pro should live up to, especially when it comes to social media management work
  1. Honesty: This is a no brainer. Being honest means not exaggerating an opponent’s or competitor’s weaknesses, only forwarding (or from a social media standpoint, “retweeting or sharing”) information that has been verified, and choosing to not spread rumors or falsehoods.
  2. Transparency: We have all heard of incidents in which an employee poses as a “customer” on a site like Yelp! and writes a rave review of their own company. Don’t do it. Be transparent and you will have real customers speaking your praises for you.
  3. Respect: Always avoid stooping down to aggression or nastiness. Do not use you company’s Twitter account to bash another company of product. People love spreading drama.
  4.  Privacy: Be sure to respect the privacy of your company when you are on a public platform.
  5. Relevance: Do not change the subject when dealing with an irate customer leaving snide comments on your company’s Facebook page. Be sure to answer the question or concern at hand and engage the consumer.
  6. Responsibility: To put it simply, always take responsibility. Never delete a tweet or try to hide a mistake. Address it and take action for or against it. 

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