This Week in PR Ethics (3/3/22): Ukraine. PR Associations Take a Stand

The Russian invasion of Ukraine resonated throughout the world and this includes business, public relations and communication. Businesses and organizations are willingly going beyond focusing on shareholder or stakeholder value, and doing the morally right thing – even if it hurts in the short term. The Global PR Trade Associations (PRCA, ICCO, Global Alliance) stepped up and took strong stands, and PRSA used the opportunity to highlight the many perils of disinformation.

Usually this semi-weekly post is filled with ethical issues and mistakes. This week it is celebrating organizations that followed the maxim: Do the Right Thing.

What do I mean?

  • Global Alliance – The Global Alliance called for all members to carefully consider the ethical aspects of working with organizations that are “aligned with Russian Authorities or are equivocal in condemning the current military action.”
  • PRCA – The PRCA took an even more inspiring and commendable stance when they unequivocally stated “any agency working with an organization on the sanctions list will be expelled.” The statement is clear, reinforces their values and shows the impact of choices people make.
  • ICCO – The ICCO took immediate action and suspended the membership of AKOS (The Russian PR Trade Association)
  • PRSA – In addition to the actions as a member of the Global Alliance, the PRSA renewed its Voices4Everyone education campaign against disinformation and misinformation
  • Microsoft and other businesses step up: Business has always been involved in warfare. From Ford and GM to Mercedes, BMW and back throughout history, business and war go hand in hand. But right now it looks like some organizations (Microsoft, SpaceX and many, many others) are looking beyond the balance sheet and lending their expertise.  As CNET reports “Big Tech’s Support for Ukraine Recasts Industry’s Global Role”
  • But can we go to far…..While I wholeheartedly support all of these efforts, there are still ethical grey areas. Specifically, should athletes be punished solely based on where they are born? Organizations, HQed and doing business in a country is one thing. But should sanctions be given against athletes for not speaking out? Banning teams and events is one thing (and boy is that list long), but should individual athletes be held accountable? It was a hot topic on sports radio Wednesday morning.  I worry, for then what happens when we penalize someone for being born in Mexico? Canada? Wisconsin? Texas?
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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