This Week in PR Ethics (8/4/22): Fraud, Transparency, Disclosure, and Purpose

The summer is heating up and so are ethics issues. It is probably easier to ask what violation of PRSA’s code of ethics didn’t happen this week – fraud; lack of transparency and disclosure; and attacks on purpose are just a few.

  • Don’t steal – It is an ethical lesson most people learn early. But the COO of a global PR firm pled guilty to embezzling $16 million. While most PR pros never face that temptation, many face it every day from requests to lie on their timesheets to inflating expense reports.


  • Transparency – A good friend of mine Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, authored this OpEd in the Tampa Bay Times on how Florida Power & Light was unethical by not following the rules of transparency (to say the least)


  • Are some topics off limits for CSR and CSJ? – Studies show consumers reward purpose-driven brands. Dr. Holly Overton has written about the move from CSR to CSJ. This week Agility PR blogged about if there are some issues on which brands will not get involved. A conference board survey found less than 10 percent of brands engaging on guns or Roe v. Wade.


  • Get woke go broke? – Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking this theme to the next level and forbidding ESG-focused investment by State Pension funds (which aren’t doing it). It is a fascinating look at a pushback on purpose.


  • Lack of disclosure – Bloomberg reported on alleged political ethical violations in Georgia by a number of grassroots organizations not disclosing how they were working on behalf of a candidate.


  • Let’s discuss propaganda and democracy – The Museum of Public Relations is hosting an interesting series of talks examining public relations role in protecting truth and fighting misinformation.


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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