Does Doxing Have a Place in Public Relations? I Don’t Think So

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

The great thing about following the news of the day is that there’s always something to learn.

For example, the other day I learned a new phrase: Doxing, the process of using online resources to gather and share information about a person, company or organization.  According to a definition I found on Wikipedia, doxing “is closely related to internet vigilantism and hacktivism.”

And, you guessed it: The word’s etymology comes from “docs,” an abbreviated form of the word documents.

(NOTE 1: I never heard of those two related words before today, but I think I know what they mean.)

The world's most famous pharma bro, both pensive and letting loose.

Images of the world’s most famous pharma bro, both pensive and letting loose.

I stumbled across the reference to doxing while reading about the fallout last week centering around the decision by Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli to escalate the price of the drug Daraprim to $750 per tablet from $13.50 per tablet.

Surly, you read about the backlash against Turing and Mr. Shkreli by this decision. “Backlash” may be a bit of a misnomer, as there was a firestorm of protest from the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare profession to politicians running for President and the internet general public.

(NOTE 2: I just made up that phrase, “internet general public.”)

People across the digital world expressed outrage and bashed Mr. Shkreli, referring to him as a “pharma bro” and using other terms, many not appropriate for this space.  To complete the doxing, personal information on Mr. Shkreli and his staff were disseminated.

(NOTE 3: I also never heard the derogatory phrase “pharma bro” before last week, but I have read about “bro country” music.)

Now, to the point I’d like to make: Mr. Shkreli and his company were “doxed” and severely so.  And, a positive result will be a reduction in the price of Daraprim; at this writing that price has not been disclosed.

This doxing incident has demonstrated the awesome power of digital communications to rally people and organizations to a cause. As reported by many news sources, the virtual public bludgeoning did get an intended result.

Jason Aldean certainly is a bro, country, that is.

Jason Aldean certainly is a bro, bro country, that is.

But to me, that raises the question of whether this type of calculated and possibly coordinated practice is ethical. From the perspective of ethical public relations practices, I say it’s not.

At its core, public relations is driven by an open disclosure and free flow of information, honesty and fairness; and, the overall result of an ethical public relations program should offer something that’s good for society.

A public relations program that incorporates or inspires doxing — or another uncontrolled, non-managed communications practice — is unethical and has no place in modern public relations.

Today, on the waning days of September, the month the Public Relations Society of America dedicates toward ethics, I hope ethical public relations professionals everywhere will take note and perhaps take a stand against doxing and any related practices.

After all, I certainly don’t ever want to be known as “PR bro.”

What I Don’t Understand About Chicago Today

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

There’s doom and there’s gloom.

And, lately, both have been applied literally and figuratively to the fortunes of my home town of Chicago. Want proof?

Yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a proposed whopping $500 million-plus property tax hike and other taxes to fund pensions and keep the city from falling into the proverbial financial abyss.

(One might say Chicago is facing a “public relations crisis,” but I think that phrase better fits Volkswagen given its troubles.)

Would you pay $315 million for this building? Someone plans to.

Would you pay $315 million for this building? Someone plans to.

As a homeowner in Chicago, my bi-annual payment to the Cook County Treasurer will escalate significantly should the tax plan get City Council approval. The same, of course, will happen to every other property owner.

But the tax increase, which was reported in the news several days ago, should have prompted a mass exodus of investment from Chicago; so far,  the prospect of higher taxes apparently hasn’t swayed interest in a long-term investment like Chicago real estate.

Consider these two news items from today:

  • In the heart of downtown, there’s big news on the commercial office front; as reported in Crain’s Chicago Business, two separate properties each are being purchased by out-of-town buyers for around the same price — $315 million. (An aside: I worked in one of these buildings, and yes it was a nice property. But $315 million?)
  • Close to home, a developer has received approval to break ground this fall on the so-called “Twin Towers” apartment project of more than 200 units in the increasingly hip Logan Square neighborhood.  (An aside: This is among a half-dozen or so similar hipster-focused apartment developments slated for the area, all a mile or so from our humble Avondale home.)
The guy on the right is committed to Chicago. So things can't be that bad.

The guy on the right is committed to Chicago. So things can’t be that bad.

Yes, these are just two examples; if you’ve followed the Chicago real estate market (like I do), you’re cognizant of the fact that there’s tremendous investor and developer interest in Chicago for multifamily, office, industrial, retail and hotel properties.

What’s more, Chicago is slated to be the site for some rather noteworthy cultural properties: The Obama Presidential Library and Museum and Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

So, that’s what I don’t understand: If Chicago is in dire financial straits, why is there continued activity in purchasing parcels?

Rest assured, this Chicago guy is staying put.  At least for a while.

Want evidence of my commitment to my home town? We’re getting a new roof on the garage.

 

September is PRSA Ethics Month, But There’s More

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Given the fact this blog is about public relations (well, most of the time) and published by a guy who holds the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential and writes under the PRDude moniker, I’ll bet you think the focus of today’s post (given the title) is on PRSA Ethics Month.

Well, you’re right.

Sort of.

prsa_logoThat’s because other organizations have joined the Public Relations Society of America in dedicating a month to focus the spotlight on ethics.

Want some examples? Here’s what a quick Google search revealed.

  • The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) has designated September as Ethics Awareness Month, and its leadership encourages its 92 chapters to promote adherence to established standards for commercial property management.
  • The International City/County Management Association gets a head start on the ethics front, dedicating March Ethics Awareness Month for its membership, comprised of professional city, town, and county managers.
  • And, as reported in this English language newspaper fr0m the state of Jharkhand, India, the Tata Steel company celebrates ethics in July to commemorate the ethical standards of its founder.

    The team at Tata Steel.

    The team at Tata Steel holds an ethics celebration in July to honor its founder and the standards he established.

I’m sure a more aggressive search would reveal many other examples of organizations and companies that recognize the value of ethics today.

But in the spirit of PRSA Ethics Month, I challenge these entities to uphold to ethical standards all year round:

  • Elected Officials. Just think think of how much better our lives would be if every man and woman elected by voters to office would make decisions based on honesty and the public good, versus decisions driven by campaign contributions, party affiliation and political ideology.
  • Wall Street. Yes, banks, exchanges and brokerages are in the business of making money. As evidenced over the years, sometimes ethical standards are tossed out the window like confetti, and greed and more greed drives financial practices that bash the little person.
  • Everyone Online. That’s right. Every man, woman and child who communicates digitally should do so ethically and not cowardly, like the growing army of internet trolls masked by user name disguises.

Who or what organization/company/body would you add to this list?

Let me conclude this ethics-themed post with a link to the PRSA webpage that details accepted ethical standards for public relations professionals and a link to an Ethics Month Survey being undertaken by Marlene Neill, APR, PhD, a professor at Baylor University and a former colleague of mine on the Universal Accreditation Board.

Want more on ethics? Then visit this 2014 post featuring a “pop quiz” on ethics in public relations, then follow up with a companion post where the questions are “deconstructed.”

 

 

 

 

Barcelona Beckoned: And We Followed

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

On this Labor Day 2015, I will labor for a while (a short while) to provide some thoughts and related images on our recent visit to the fascinating city of Barcelona, Spain.

All vacations are special, or should be, but this one had particular relevance: Susan and I celebrated my 60th birthday in Barcelona. (Read this post for more insight.)

Now, onto Barcelona.

Barcelona, the City. There’s lots of sources to learn more about the founding of the city, one of the true world capitols, and once a major part of the Roman Empire. What we found in 2015 was a thriving metropolis that melded old and new rather seamlessly. From our room at the cool, modern Hotel Jazz, we could see laundry hanging from balconies of nearby apartment buildings and walk to a new, efficient metro station or 17th Century church in two minutes. Plazas were shared by kids on skateboards and retirees enjoying the mild evening weather. In neighborhoods, we watched people of all demographic groups interacting. The city evolved without losing its soul.

Barcelona, the People. Yes, it’s in Spain, but the people of Barcelona identify themselves as Catalonian, an independent and autonomous community with its own language, culture and heroes. Those we encountered — from the dancing waiter at a modest tapas restaurant, to the insightful tour guide during our day trip to the Roman town of Girona and the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, to the policemen always willing to provide directions in the labyrinth streets of the Gothic Quarter – were warm and engaging. We did not encounter any rude behavior.

Barcelona, the Culture. As you’d guess, there’s lots of culture in Barcelona – much of it with the many fabulous museums and grand apartment and office buildings, marketplaces, parks, churches and boulevards. In this densely populated city (as the case in other European towns, we saw few, if any single-family detached homes), restaurants and cafes are seemingly everywhere. Almost every meal we had was good or outstanding. There’s a beach culture comprised of sunbathers of all shapes and sizes, including clubs where men drink wine, talk and play dominoes with a view of the Mediterranean Sea. And, of course, Barcelona is the home of architect Antoni Gaudi, whose Art Nouveau masterpieces are truly enthralling.

Barcelona, the Olympics Heritage. I was inspired to visit Barcelona after watching the Opening Ceremonies for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games held there. (I know: It only took 23 years.) One recollection was the lighting of the Olympic flame by an archer in a wheelchair. A very cool and dramatic statement. The Olympic Stadium and Flame, set within the Montjuic Park, made for a memorable visit on the last of our seven days/nights in Barcelona.

Ready for the “travelogue?”

Had to include an image of Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi cathedral still under construction.

Had to include an image of Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi cathedral still under construction.

Beautiful weather, an awesome harbor. Hard to find a better waterfront.

Beautiful weather, an awesome harbor. Hard to find a better waterfront.

A street in the Gothic Quarter, the Palau Musica Catalana at left.

A street in the Gothic Quarter, the Palau Musica Catalana at left.

A view of the Catedral. The Romans built some of the foundation.

A view of the Catedral. The Romans built some of the foundation.

The Olympic Flame. Seeing the flame being lit in 1992 inspired my interest in Barcelona.

The Olympic Flame. Seeing the flame being lit in 1992 inspired my interest in Barcelona.

Didn't see any surfers, but the beach still is the place to be.

Didn’t see any surfers, but the beach still is the place to be.

Note this description (in English, center, unless you can read Spanish or Catalan) of the impact of mass communication on society.

Note this description (in English, center, unless you can read Spanish or Catalan) of the impact of mass communication on society.

My birthday photo, at our favorite cafe off the Universitat de Barcelona plaza.

My birthday photo, at our favorite cafe off the Universitat de Barcelona plaza.

This outstanding meal, seafood paella and a beer, cost 17 Euros, or less than $20.

This outstanding meal, seafood paella and a beer, cost 17 Euros, or less than $20.

A Juan Miro mural from the National Museum of Art.

A Juan Miro mural from the National Museum of Art.

The entrance to the Juan Miro Foundation. Miro's presence is strong; he even designed a bank logo.

The entrance to the Juan Miro Foundation. Miro’s presence is strong; he even designed a bank logo.

Now it’s your turn: Do you have Barcelona memories to share?