Public Relations & Integrity in a Digital Age (Article/Video)

What does it mean to act with integrity? 

My latest article for CommPRO, "Integrity in PR:  Finding True North in a Digital World,"  was inspired by a recent Communicators-to-Communicators 3-Minute Insights Video series interview with Richard Levick, Chairman & CEO of LEVICK

In the conversation he argued that the PR and communications industry needs to look at its practices.  “What happens to communications firms, if we are found to engage in tools which are found not to be the ethical or credible approach we should be taking?”


And only last week, Richard Edelman called on public relations professionals to commit to higher ethical standards at the National Press Club in a presentation on “Trust.”

As I argue in the article, the industry needs to take a look in the mirror: "Not because it isn’t acting in accordance with past standards, but because the world has changed."

The key is to ask – what does it mean to act with integrity in the digital world? 

In addition to highlighting the reasons why companies and the people within them lose sight of their "True North," I outline a number of questions worth asking about your digital communications… 

  1. Is the information we are sharing truthful?
  2. Do we disclose the source of the information we are providing?
  3. Is it appropriate to buy email lists to market to target companies?
  4. Is it OK to buy social media followers?
  5. Are we creating clickbait that draws people to websites under false pretenses?
  6. Is the content we are developing providing value or simply being used to trap consumers into sharing emails and market to them?
  7. Are we trying to game Google in SEO by building into websites everything that drives rankings, including backlinking strategies and paying to post content on random websites?
  8. Are we publishing press releases for the sole purpose of improving website traffic?
  9. Should we target people who have been to our website to receive banner advertisements for days or weeks afterwards?
  10. Do we collect payments through websites in ways that are fully transparent?

The article notes that when it comes to truth-telling and disclosure, there can be no equivocation.  

When it comes to digital practices answers aren't always simple – which is why it’s important to seek out and be guided by best practices. 

There's a simple mantra that can also serve as a powerful guide:  “Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you.”  

I argue that putting yourself in the shoes of your audience and paying attention to feedback are essential to navigating in the digital age.  Traditional rules of thumb, such as "How would something look on the front page of The New York Times or Wall Street Journal," continue to be as relevant as ever.  But, we also need to review our activities on an ongoing basis in the context of a world in which practices are ever changing and the audience along with them.   

I note that when it comes to integrity, North Star issues and benchmarks for behaviors have not changed, but there are many new choices that define our businesses and us as individuals. 

At a time of unprecedented transparency, I argue that choosing the right path is more important than ever. 

Click here to read the article.



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