This Week in PR Ethics (1/14/20) – Trust, Activism and Training

Politics dominated the ethics discussion this past week, and is likely going to continue to do so for the next few weeks. Since I am not a breaking news outlet, I am letting others deal with those issues – but there are still some really interesting ethics articles this week – from the continued decline of trust to an examination of how and when a global brand decides to take an activist position.


  • Decline of Trust – The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer came out this week and the data is not good. According to Reuters “Trust in governments, business chiefs and media is crumbling amid a perceived mis-handling by leaders of the coronavirus pandemic and a widespread feeling among ordinary citizens that they are being misled.” I plan to dig into it more as time allows but I found it interesting that business leaders are more trusted than the government or media…which drives home the importance of ethical communication from business.


  • Corporate Social Activism – Ben & Jerry’s was one of the first US companies to unabashedly take a corporate activist stance. HBR has a great interview with the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s on when and how they decide to take a stand on an issue.


  • Encourage employees to speak up regularly – One of my favorite sayings is that ethics training is like vitamins. It does you no good if you take it once a year. The Ethics & Compliance Initiative had a great article last week that reinforces this and points out training needs to be regular and interesting.  If you haven’t discussed ethics with your team this week – why not?


  • How ethical is that ad? Politics has been dominating the national discussion, and I found this article from Campaigns & Elections interesting as it looks at the ethics of political ads for fundraising.  The tl;dr version is rhetoric matters and if we use language that relies on people not making rational, informed decisions, it is crossing the line.
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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