This Week in PR Ethics (4/16/20): Are we seeing the rise of the long-term surveillance state? Are businesses really putting stakeholders first?

This week there were quite a few ethics in communication issues to highlight, including many that may have a profound impact on society. Are we seeing the rise of the long-term surveillance state? Are businesses really putting stakeholders first? What are the ethics of grants and what do Canadians think about PR and ethics? Check it out below:

  • What are the ethics issues of Apple/Google and contact tracing – Apple and Google are teaming up to quickly develop and deploy a solution that can help with the fight against COVID-19. It is an essential activity from a medical point of view, but there are a number of ethics issues, including privacy, potential abuse and the rise of a long-term surveillance state. To my point of view, this is going to accelerate the rise of very deep, pervasive surveillance and it will be embraced and championed by many.


  • Is the Business Roundtable living up to their pledge to embrace stakeholder vs. shareholder value: In August 2019, the Business Roundtable signaled a seismic shift by endorsing the importance of stakeholder value vs. shareholder value. The consensus with my peers was it sounds good, but it needs to be backed by consistent action. COVID-19 is really testing this pledge and it appears some businesses are not living up to their promise. When this trend is combined with trends identified in the special update to the Edelman Trust Barometer I believe those businesses that aggressively focus on long-term stakeholder value will have more trust and brand equity in a few months.


  • How do Canadians perceive the PR industry and ethics? Speaking of trust, the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) today launched the CPRS PR Perceptions Survey that seeks to understand the perceptions of the public relations profession and the importance of professional standards and ethics for Canada’s communicators. What makes this survey interesting is CPRS is looking to survey consumers as well as industry. I will definitely cover this when they reveal the results.


  • The ethics of grants, consultants and conflict of interest – I found this blog post by Cyndi MacKenzie, GPC, a member of the Grant Professionals Ethics committee to be interesting and great for driving a discussion. What are the ethical challenges grant writers face? And how can consultants who help two organizations apply for the same grant handle the conflict of interest? Is it the same as an agency helping multiple companies apply for a Fast Company award or industry speaking slot? Is disclosure enough or is the action inherently unethical? All in all, some good fodder for discussion.
Mark McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA
Follow Me
Mark W. McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the general manager of C+C's Boston office. C+C is a communications agency all about the good and purpose-driven brands. He has more than 20 years of tech and fintech agency experience, served as the 2016 National Chair of PRSA, drove the creation of the PRSA Ethics App and is the host of


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *