This Week in PR Ethics (1/28/21) – Shadow Lobbying, Ethos, Pathos and Fashion

This week in public relations ethics there was an eclectic collection of topics of interest. Topics range from a first-ever ban on shadow lobbying, to the proper application of ethos and pathos, and advice on setting up an EAB. I also loved a story of ethics in action and how a former PR pro is helping ethical manufacturers in the fashion industry.

  • Shadow Lobbying – My Google alerts were overwhelmed this week with various stories highlighting an aggressive Biden administration effort to curb conflict of interest – a key ethics issue. The new order bans ‘Shadow Lobbying’ which is more common among former government officials or ex- lawmakers who have titles like senior adviser or consultant. They make calls to members of Congress on behalf of a client or help bridge a gap in communications, even if they aren’t registered to work for that client. This is the first time shadow lobbying has been banned and the rule prohibits officials from facilitating communications between out-of-government colleagues and federal employees for one year. 


  • Demeanor matters – I have been deluged with posts from my colleagues and friends over the moon with Jen Psaki’s debut as press secretary. This ladders back to core ethical communication concepts of ethos, pathos and logos. Psaki is showing mastery of all three, with a particular focus on ethics and pathos as a way of quickly establishing credibility and connection.


  • Creating an ethics advisory board – The Harvard Business Review highlights the challenges of setting up and Ethics Advisory Board (EAB) and provides eight strategies to help leaders successfully set up and run an EAB. The tl;dr version:
    • Ensure a unified mission
    • Recruit diverse board members
    • Clearly specify the EAB’s scope of responsibilities
    • Develop targeted meeting agendas
    • Consider a wide array of stakeholders
    • Avoid prescriptive directives
    • Invite honest input from the EAB
    • Bring the EAB into key decisions as early as possible.


  • Finding ethical suppliers – I found this article about a former PR pro, Jessica Kelly, who created a SaaS solution to help brands build ethical and sustainable fashion by connecting to ethical factories around the world a really interesting and positive read. It is a great example of using ethical practices to help business, consumers and society.
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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