This Week in PR Ethics (4/22/21): Did 4% of Americans Drink Bleach in 2021 and the Most Unethical TV Idea Ever

I was planning a nice, simple update on ethics topics this week – AI, hiring, and maybe being quirky with a story from Wichita. Then on Wednesday, I was hit with my favorite ethics story of the year from the Harvard Business Review – and a story so bad, I had to spend 20 minutes confirming it was real. Read on below to learn about the most unethical TV idea ever.


  • Did 4% of Americans Drink Bleach last year? – I love this article from HBR that shows the problem with communicators’ reliance on survey data to drive stories. Ethically, we need to really look at a survey’s methodology and controls before accepting the extrapolations and conclusions.


  • The most unethical and worst story I have read in a long time – I discuss the ethical perils of surprise and delight risks with my students are the time. If lying to get a reaction unethical. Well, one TV show in Iraq took it to a new low. I had to double check to make sure this story is real, but they had “pretend terrorists” kidnap celebrities and threaten to kill them for entertainment. Words fail me.


  • How Communicators Can Address Ethical AI Risks – People that have been listening to my podcast know AI and ethics is a topic of great interest to me. This week Forbes has an interesting article on how communicators can address ethical AI risks. As the author states, “Marketing and communications specialists must be aware of the most prominent ethical risks and concerns that arise throughout the development and deployment lifecycle, as well as the opportunity to champion the right culture and brand to produce ethical and responsible AI that works for everyone.”


  • Three ethical questions to ask before hiring an employee – Bloomberg Opinion this week has an article on three ethical questions you should ask your potential CEO before hiring them. I believe these questions work for all jobs. Ask them about the worst thing they have done. Ask them about ethics scenarios and ask them to attest to past behavior.


  • What we can learn from Wichita and ethics – I read this week that Wichita is revising its ethics guidelines for gifts for the first time in 63 years. It is a good reminder that we need to beware of insidious ways of influencing behavior and understand when gifting is and is not acceptable as communicators.
Mark McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA
Follow Me
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


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *