This Week in PR Ethics (8/13/20): NRA, McDonald’s, and Ethics Lessons from the First Female CCO

This week is chock full of high-profile ethics issues. I can’t wait until I start teaching my PR Ethics course again at Boston University in less than a month as we will have great discussions on these and other issues.  Some highlights (or lowlights) include the ethical use of money, bad behavior and inspiration from Marilyn Laurie, the first female CCO.

  • The NRA and ethical use of money – Keeping politics out of this (which is hard), but the New York Attorney General is investigating a non-profit for three serious ethical (and legal) issues:
    • Diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership. [How an organization uses funds is a question every communicator should ask their leadership as it deals directly with reputational the legal risk to the organization. From Enron to this, examples abound]
    • Awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family [There is a reason PRSA and most professional associations have a conflict of interest clause in their codes of ethics]
    • “Appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.” [A few weeks ago I reported on how Novartis was doing something similar. Brands may fall into this trap, or giving lucrative junkets or gifts.]



  • A great ethics event tonight – The Museum of Public Relations will be hosting a panel discussion exploring the rise of women in PR, focusing on the life and career of Marilyn Laurie, the nation’s first woman CCO. The panel will explore how students and professionals can learn from Marilyn Laurie’s example, in reputation management, crisis communications, leadership and ethics. You can still register.
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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