This Week in PR Ethics (7/16/20): Names, Pardons, Testing and Training

One of the great things about blogging about communication ethics is I never run out of things to discuss. We had pardons, name changes, sports ethics and on a positive note, a new ethics training guide.

  • What’s in a name? – The Washington Redskins dropping their name after the owner vowed repeatedly he was never going to cave to pressure is a case study in brands being attacked by advocates. I side with those that think the name should be changed, but there are so many areas ripe for discussion – why did they keep the brand for so long? What justifications did they use? How are the determining the new brand and are there stakeholder groups they should be consulting that they are not? PR Week sad it nicely “Facebook and the Washington Redskins are learning that partners will no longer accept excuses for not meeting their standards.” This is another great example of stakeholders having increased say. It also goes well beyond naming and is another example of the demand for ethical supply chains.


  • Just because you can do something, should you? – President’s Trump pardon of Roger Stone was one of the top media discussion items of the week. There are so many ethical dimensions of this: Just because you can do something, should you? Should the benefit of helping one person outweigh the potential negative consequences on more if it hurts your election chances? Should you always help your friends and allies? This has deontological, teleological and virtue-based elements and makes for an interesting discussion.



  • Ethics guide for tech workers – WIRED reported on a new ethics guide for tech workers that looks at eight risk zones: surveillance, disinformation, exclusion, algorithmic bias, addiction, data control, bad actors, and outsize power. 1) I love ethics guides and 2) These are issues that are relevant to communication pros as well. The Ethical Explorer field guide can be found here.
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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