This Week in PR Ethics (7/23/20) – Ethical Measurement and Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of interest, particularly around communication from the government, seemed to be the most popular communication ethics issue of the past week. Add into that an update to the Barcelona Measurement Principles including measurement integrity and there are a number topics ripe for discussion.

  • Ethical MeasurementThe Barcelona Principles 3.0 came out on July 9 (14 days ago), but since people are blogging about it, I can still claim it was this week. There are two key things that jumped out at me:
    • Barcelona Principles 3.0 acknowledges that common practices in 2010 – even 2015 – may now be outdated, with game-changing shifts particularly over the last 2-3 years
    • Communication measurement and evaluation are rooted in integrity and transparency to drive learning and insights.
  • Conflicts of interest and competition – A loyal reader shared this story with me from Politico about how a senior administration official was allegedly both circumventing the bid process and rewarding political allies.  The key takeaway for me, particularly when it comes to public contracts, is to make sure you rigorously follow the process and ethical frameworks so there can be no perception of doubt that you followed the process. If my students were in class, I would be discussing how to make sure the playing field is level.

  • …and More conflicts of interest – Forbes had an article highlighting the now infamous Ivanka Trump Goya photo and an ethics investigation being called for by some Democrats. It comes down to avoiding conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest. As a minimal baseline, disclose any conflict you may have. Standing by those that you feel are being attacked unjustly can be commendable and virtuous, but it needs to be done appropriately.

  • Deepfakes in action – I regularly discuss the rising threat of deepfakes, and a few hours after I published This Week in PR Ethics last week, Reuters ran an article showing a form of it in action “Deepfake used to attack activist couple shows new disinformation frontier”  In this case it was creating a synthetic personality to attack those with who the author agreed. It was so successful the fictional person had a half dozen freelance editorials and blog posts with bylines in the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel. The true issue was the deepfakes made him seem like a real person and lent authenticity.


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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