This Week in PR Ethics (9/22/22): Misinformation, NyQuil, Conflict of Interest and Walking the Walk

This week there were quite a few ethical issues. TikTok was involved in two, including it suggesting misinformation to promoting unhealthy viral challenges. Another common theme was where do you draw the boundaries when it comes to student loan forgiveness to public/work-life boundaries. There were also a few articles that showed multiple facets of purpose and greenwashing.


  • TikTok Search has a misinformation problem – Mashable shared a NewsGuard report that found “When looking for prominent news stories in September, the fact-checking organization found misinformation in almost 20 percent of videos surfaced by the app’s search engine.” What really caught my interest was it wasn’t just the results, but the suggested searches.


  • Speaking of misinformation – Don’t cook chicken in NyQuil. Seriously The FDA had to come out with a warning this week based on the popularity of this social challenge.




  • Who controls a company’s purpose? – A top story with week was the continuation of the Ben & Jerry’s/Unilever saga that looks at who controls the social mission of a company and what happens if you try to draw too fine a line. This incident dealt with selling the ice cream in the West Bank.



  • Walking the walk on climate change – Greenwashing and purposewashing is running rampant. Last week Patagonia showed companies how it could and should be done. The founder donated the entire $3B company to fight climate change. Now that is truly walking the walk.
    • Most companies won’t go that far, but it needs to be more than most business are doing. This article from the FT highlights how while 35 percent of 3,133 companies with net zero emissions targets had bought offsets, only 10 percent had purchased a “meaningful” amount.
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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