This Week in PR Ethics (9/3/20): Meaning, Character and The Rise of The Millennial Moral Leader

September is Ethics Month for PRSA and PRCA. While I believe we should talk about ethics more than one month a year (one reason I created this blog and podcast), the good news is, there should be a ton a content for those that are interested.  This week there are interesting articles on meaning, character and the rise of moral leaders. I also liked Tim O’Brien’s piece on ethics and AI.

  • The Rise of the Millennial Moral Leader – Millennial Moral Leadership is on the Rise according to author Shawn Vij. This article in the International Business Times references a new report by 5W Public Relations, 83% of Millennials find it important for the companies they buy from to align with their values. About 71 percent of Millennials will pay more for goods that funnel some proceeds to charity, and 67 percent of that age group say it’s important that a brand they’re buying from has a charitable component, according to the report.  I also see this backed up in the Edelman brand study and the Business Roundtable declaration in August 2019.  Action matter. I liked what Shawn had to say in that this transcends CSR “It is about ‘being’ a conscious business that raises the overall human condition. It is not about philanthropy or corporate social responsibility but rather about always being a conscious business. It’s about each of us doing the right thing always.”


  • PR is at the intersection of AI and Ethics – Anyone who has read my blog or podcast knows that AI and ethics is an interest of mine. Tim O’Brien has a great article on it this week on PRSay. He lays out the need for PR involvement for “we will find ourselves at the intersection of AI and its effects on people.” That is why I believe all professionals need to educate themselves on this topic and get actively involved in their organizations AI efforts today, rather than after an issue happens.


  • Meaning matters – I was intrigued by this article in PRWeek on the fight between Impossible Foods and Lightlife Foods that seems to revolve around two issues. How do we define “processed” and is it ethically correct to go low rather than taking the high road? I can see the “processed” claims being in the same vein as greenwashing and it ties nicely to some discussions I had with recent guests on EthicalVoices on inflated claims.  Full disclosure: I prefer beef, pork, chicken and seafood.


  • Character Matters – Virtue-Based ethics is based on the premise that character matters. This was reinforced once again in an article from “Women’s Agenda” in Australia that reports that “The CEO of QBE Insurance Group, Pat Regan, has left the organisation today following an “external investigation” concerning “workplace communications” that did not meet the standards set in the Group Code of Ethics and Conduct.
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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