This Week In PR Ethics (3/31/22): Oscars, Supreme Court and Africa

This week there were just a few prominent ethics stories – but boy were they big.  From The Oscars (do you know something happened?), to conflict of interest in the judiciary to an interesting PRCA study on PR ethics in Africa, there are some great topics to discuss.


  • Will Smith’s actions definitely caused people to discuss the Oscars this year. Rather than add my opinion to the thousands of others, I want to take a different tack and ask a few ethics questions:
    • If this was staged, is that type of stunt ethical?
    • How would you look at Will Smith’s actions from a deontological, teleological and virtue- based perspective? WWKD? (What Would Kant Do?)
  • Conflict of Interest and the Supreme Court – Earlier this year, I discussed conflicts of interest if one’s spouse was a lobbying. Ginni Thomas said “Hold my beer”.  This Guardian article highlights how a Ginni Thomas was urging Mark Meadows to do what he could to support Trump. What makes this ethically interesting is that Clarence Thomas did not recuse himself from the vote on making the texts public .  This harkens back to the 70s question “What did he know and when did he know it?”
  • PR, Ethics and Africa – PRCA released an interesting survey on the state of PR in Africa. While I hate the title of the article, what jumped out at me is this element from the Africa survey “The importance of ethical, effective communications has never been more evident than today as the world grapples with disinformation across various media. Encouragingly, the majority of PR practitioners feel the profession is viewed as ethical. Only 13% of respondents said they had been asked to act unethically within the past 12 months.”
  • Is it Greenwashing? – Instead of Netflix’s “Is it Cake” (which I still can’t believe I watched) – there should be a show – Is It Greenwashing.  Many organizations are making significant efforts to decarbonize and get to Net Zero.  Some though have made grand claims and not backed it up with action.  That means people are increasingly skeptical about claims in this area.  I was excited when I read this week that the Boston Red Sox were going to become the first carbon neutral fan experience in baseball. But then I checked out the firm they are using for Carbon Offsets and came across this interesting Pro Publica article.  Now, yes, there are biases on all sides, and I don’t know enough to say one way or the other with a cursory glance.  But it is illustrative of the challenges organizations will face in this area moving forward.
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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