This Week in PR Ethics (5/21/20): Pizza Arbitrage, Big Tobacco and a New PRCA Ethics Initiative

This past week in PR ethics was filled with some very important news and examples, and a few that are less important and make me smile. A discussion on ethics and pizza arbitrage blew up my social media feeds. While it is interesting, the research on tobacco co-opting #stayathome hashtags was chilling. There was also the important news of the PRCA launching a Global Ethics Council, and the much less important news of me being interviewed on the great Look Left @ Marketing podcast. Check these topics out below:

  • PRCA Launches Global Ethics Council – Reading the Holmes Report yesterday, I saw that the PRCA has launched a Global Ethics Council. The Council aims to provide advice to trade associations on developing and upholding ethical codes of conduct, and create an ethical forum for debating ethical issues and sharing best practices. I applaud and am enthusiastic about any effort to continue to advance the discussion of ethics in communication and raise awareness of the issues.


  • Big Tobacco Using #StayAtHome to promote vaping – This story from PRWeek UK is chilling and concerning. Since PR efforts around tobacco have been examples of some of the most unethical communication behavior of the 20th century, I look at all communications from tobacco with a jaded eye. This PR Week story shows that according to Campaign for Tobacco-Free KidsPhilip Morris International and British American Tobacco had appropriated ‘Stay at home’ hashtags used by governments and health authorities to market heated cigarette products and e-cigarettes, including Vype, despite their negative impact if someone develops COVID-19.


  • The Ethics of Pizza Arbitrage – This is one of the most interesting ethical issues I have run across in a long time. Doordash allegedly started offering delivery for a restaurant the never wanted it and didn’t agree to it. The restaurant realized Doordash would pay them $8 more/pizza than they had to pay. So, by buying their own pizzas, they could make much more money.  This is a case where I clearly think both parties are acting unethically if they did this on a sustained basis, but I wonder how many people would cheer for the pizza restaurant? I admit I was impressed by the ingenuity.


  • And Me – If you can’t get enough of my thoughts on ethics, I was a guest on the Look Left @ Marketing podcast and discussed ethical challenges facing communicators during the pandemic.


Mark McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA
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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


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