This Week in PR Ethics (2/4/21): Global Ethics Month, Tell the Truth and Prove it with Action

February is Global Ethics month – where many communication associations come together to provide insight, guidance and content. They will be using the hashtag #ethicsmatter.  In addition to this, interesting articles dealt with internal communications, the gig economy and LEGO.

  • Tell the truth and prove it with action – The Page Society principles are a powerful and useful ethics guide. I particularly love “tell the truth and prove it with action” – if more people did this, we wouldn’t have wokewashing, greenwashing, lack of trust in corporate communications and skepticism over the Business Roundtable pledge. Roger Bolton, the president of Page has a great essay on this topic and a great reminder for us all “the number one job of the chief communication officer is not messaging or storytelling or stakeholder relations, but rather it is to help the enterprise determine and activate its corporate character.”

Unfortunately, there was an example this week where it didn’t happen

  • Ethics and the Gig Economy – A competitor to Instacart used a pledge that it was the ‘ethical’ alternative to Instacart to attract customers and shoppers. It went well, initially, but as the company reduced workers’ autonomy and their ability to set tipping minimums there was a backlash, which was fanned to greater heights when it shut down its worker page on Facebook. This really reinforces the prove it in action part of the Page principles

Other interesting topics include:

  • Ethics and the supply chain – A company was selling data on 30 million customers to known fraudsters and paid the price (a $150 million fine). They did this even knowing “that those and similar clients had been arrested, charged with crimes, convicted, and otherwise subject to law enforcement actions for false and misleading practices.” This is another great example of ethical failures in the supply chain.


  • Ethics and internal comms – This article looks at the use of anonymous questions in internal company Q&As. While the author highlights their benefits – reducing fear and inhibition – he also asks if it hurts authentic and transparent conversation between employees and leaders and makes the workplace less of an engaging and positive experience.


  • Visualizing ethics in a fun way – Many people think ethics is a boring topic. I tell them it is a soap opera that has been going on for more than 4,000 years. I love it when folks find new ways to engage in ethics, and I love this Twitter account that is showing ethical concepts using Legos.


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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