This Week in PR Ethics (10/29/20) Virtue, Ethics, Politics and Charlie Brown

With the US elections just a few days away and the divisive, negative rhetoric on all sides being at what seems to me to be an all time high, I thought this week it might make sense to take a look at the oft-overlooked virtue-based approach to ethics. Luckily for me there were a few stories that addressed this topic over the past week.

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Confucius, among others, were proponents of virtue-based ethics. Today, deontology and teleology tend to dominate (for a number of valid reasons), but virtue still has a place in the “Big Three” of Ethics.

  • Compassion and Understanding – One of my students pointed out the backlash and boycott Oreo and Mondelez is facing over a powerful and moving ad showing a Proud Family and the message “A loving world, starts with a loving home” I also think this is a great example of a company moving from CSR to CSJ.

  • Civility – This week at #PRSAICON2020, PRSA launched its civility initiative. Right now, it is more of a framework and I look forward to seeing it move into action. A great example of it in action is the wonderful ad by the two Utah gubernatorial candidates who are going to #standtogether

  • Charlie Brown – A great example of a company not practicing the virtues of compassion or magnanimity is Apple and the Charlie Brown holiday specials not airing on for free on TV for the first time in decades. Now it is free for a few days to anyone who is able to watch on a browser or the Apple TV app, but they will definitely not be as widely available. This has caused considerable backlash and 2020 memes, and it is a great example of unintended impact of corporate decisions.
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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