Perhaps Facebook Could Do (A Lot) More

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

Tomorrow, the world’s largest social media site will share a bit of important news with subscribers.

Yes, the folks at Facebook will let users, like me, know if our profile data was passed on to data consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

One of the “feel good” messages from Facebook, as shown on a monitor in the CTA Logan Square Blue Line station.

As noted in this April 4 New York Times article, up to 87 million users of the platform may have had data shared with Cambridge, now brought into the international spotlight for connections with the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.

I’ll leave the political discussion of this ongoing story to other commentators. What intrigues me is the total collapse of effective crisis management by Facebook since news broke of the data breach.

Want to get a perspective on how the crisis has unfolded over the past three-plus weeks?  This PR Week report offers a play-by-play recap right up to March 27, when the number of impacted users was just 50 million.

Coming up: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be testifying before Congress Tuesday.

For an organization built on letting users share ideas, news, images and videos — purportedly all for “free” — Facebook has lost the trust of subscribers and failed miserably at managing the sustained crisis that’s embroiled the company over the reported misuse of member info.

Note the image above. That message — and others from Facebook — was on a monitor in the CTA Logan Square Blue Line station, which I visit each weekday to travel to and from work. Other similar digital and print billboards can be found at other CTA stations.

Frankly, these communications, which I just noticed recently, are weak, an after thought of sorts to mitigate the collapse of confidence experienced by many of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users.

Following these developments, the questions that surface with me: Is this the “new normal” in crisis management? Are companies becoming too large to effectively anticipate and mitigate threats? Are CEOs like Zuckerberg unable to effectively lead and regain trust?

Tomorrow, I’ll learn if I’m about the 87 million Facebook users who had personal data shared without my agreement or knowledge. But to borrow from a popular 1980s song, I don’t know if I’ll like the next Monday.


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.”





More Thoughts on Ethics and PR Pop Quiz Deconstructed

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

Don’t you wish all exams were this easy?

Well, hopefully, those who took last week’s quiz on ethics in public relations found my three questions to be within their grasp.  But before we get to the an analysis of the quiz, two thoughts on ethics.

Ethics_signTechnology — The Great Equalizer and Enabler

The ability to tweet, broadcast, post and publish in real time makes it easy and convenient to call out situations where ethics are breached. That goes for lapses in ethical standards in the public relations profession, as well as in just about every other industry. That’s good.

But from another perspective, the ability for anyone to tweet, broadcast, post and publish could create and certainly exacerbate situations where ethics are compromised.  The take away: An effective public relations program — including an up-to-date crisis communications plan — is essential to mitigate damage resulting from a breach of ethics.

Who’s in Charge of Managing Ethics?

The modern workplace is a much, much different place than it was not too long ago.  In the past, alleged ethics violations more than likely were handled by the boss or management team.  Today, some companies have employed an ethics officer, a senior staff person who becomes “the organization’s internal control point for ethics and improprieties allegations complaints and conflicts of interest,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Conglomerates and publicly-traded entities can afford to pay — and certainly need — staff dedicated to ethics. But what about smaller businesses, local governments, start-up firms? Are there people with the right skill set who can “freelance” ethical counsel?

Now, back to last week’s questions:

1.  You’re the account manager for a new client landed by your agency.  During the first face-to-face meeting with the client, you want t0 capture everything that’s discussed; so you record the conversation — but don’t tell the client or your colleagues.

Is this a breach of PRSA ethics?  If so, which provision?

Answer: Yes, of course it is!  This surreptitious action violates open disclosure of information by being a deceptive practice.

2.  ABC Amalgamated is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  As the director of communications, one of your responsibilities is to order logo merchandise for use at anniversary events.  Your old friend, a fraternity brother, owns a promotional products company in town.  The friend offers your company a discount to get the order. You ask your superior if you could do business with your friend.

Are you violating any ethical standards?  If so, which one?

Answer: No. As long as the boss is aware of your relationship with the vendor, there’s nothing wrong with this type of transaction. There would be an issue if you got a kick back or gift.

3.  As head of business development, you’re asked by agency leaders to complete a new business RFP.  The prospective client is a manufacturer of an agricultural product that is under investigation by the EPA for being unsafe.  Before the RFP is due, you learn though a source at the EPA that the product will be approved.

Answer:  This is a tough one, but I say “yes.”  The way the information constitutes a potential conflict of interest and stifles open competition.

As this post is published, there’s just a few hours left in the month of September, PRSA Ethics Month.  Did you have to cope with any ethical challenges recently?