This Week in PR Ethics (3/4/21): Dr. Seuss, Gifts and Do You Protect Your Company or Your Cousin?

This week in public relations ethics, there was a great ethics case study from Harvard Business Review, a scandal in Japan over gift policies and an explosive debate on social media over Dr. Seuss and McElligot’s Pool.

  • Protect your company or your cousin? I love HBR Case studies. They always drive a lively of discussion with my students. This one is no different. If you find out confidential information from your cousin that may impact your company if not shared, do you tell your boss so your company can be prepared, or put family first and risk backlash?


  • Gifts and conflict of interest – Gifts and conflicts of interest are always hot topics. In this case, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s press official resigned Monday, a week after drawing fire for being treated to a $700 dinner while at the communications ministry by a broadcasting firm that employs the premier’s eldest son. According to the paper “The dinner was deemed to violate the national public service ethics law, which prohibits receiving favors from stakeholders, as the company runs a satellite broadcasting business to which the ministry grants licenses.” This is a great article to drive home the importance of being aware of a company’s gifting policies.


  • Should Dr. Seuss be pulled? – This week, when we observe Read Across America, the Dr. Seuss Foundation announced it will stop publishing six titles. Is this an example of cancel culture, a move to ensure representation, or changing norms?
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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