What is modern PR to you?
Follow the hashtag #PRis to see what your peers say, and join in the conversation!
What is modern PR to you?
Follow the hashtag #PRis to see what your peers say, and join in the conversation!
Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of nearly 50,000 ProfNet experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to email@example.com
I recently got into a good-natured debate with one of my colleagues about whether or not ethics can be taught, particularly in PR. Are ethics inherent (that is, based on our upbringing), or can ethics be more clearly defined into black-and-white rules (“right” vs. “wrong”)? Is there a need for ethics classes in the PR industry?
Dear Ethics Evalutor,
Seven ProfNet experts weigh in:
The Importance of Ethics
“Public relations is a tool, just like a hammer,” says Dan Collins, senior director of media relations at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “You can use it to build homes for the homeless, or you can use it to cave in someone’s skull.”
Collins provides an extreme example to consider: “I recall watching a documentary where a public relations professional was shown viewing films of Hitler’s infamous Nuremberg rally that was the focus of ‘Triumph of Will.’ He commented that Hitler was ‘using public relations techniques 50 years ago that are just starting to be used today.’”
This is a frightening example of how important morality is in public relations, says Collins. “PR must be used to inform and act with a social conscience — not to manipulate, but to educate.”
Also, consider the recent controversy (from about a year ago) when news broke of a marketing and PR firm that had Libya’s Mumar Quaddafi among its clients.
“Should one do PR for a dictator?” questions Collins.
“If you are speaking on behalf of a client and putting forward an agenda that is potentially criminal, you have to be taken to task,” he says. Claiming the “Nuremberg defense,” — saying “I was only doing what I was told” or “I was only obeying orders” — doesn’t wash. PR people are not above the law.
How Do We Define “Ethics”?
“Don’t confuse ethics with morality,” says Ann Willets, CEO of Utopia Communications. “Ethics is a way of doing something, and yes it can be taught.” Morals, on the other hand, are dependent on one’s culture.
“For example, people may have a good work ethic or a bad work ethic,” continues Willets. “An extreme example is the Nazi party. They had an ethic, but it was immoral. All companies have ethics, but not all of them are moral ethics.”
Willets offers this quote from the TV show “NCIS”: “The ethical man knows he’s not supposed to cheat on his wife; the moral man actually wouldn’t.”
Can and Should Ethics Be Taught?
When Marilyn Gordon, president of Mediatude, taught an ethics class, she would administer an ethics “quiz” and found that the scores surprisingly leaned towards a high percentage of unethical answers.
“Did that mean that some of my students were unethical?” asks Gordon. “I tend to think not, but it did show that in certain instances, there may be a slide towards what I would consider the ‘dark side.’” At any rate, there’s clearly confusion about ethical decision-making sometimes.
“The importance of ethics can be reinforced through the classroom,” agrees Alisa Agozzino, assistant professor of communication arts at Ohio Northern University. Students should be asked to critically examine ethics and how it plays a role in the PR profession.
“All PR programs should instate a mandatory course in ethics,” echoes Julie Sugishita, account executive at The Hoffman Agency. “First, it will help validate the professionalism of the industry. Incorporating generally accepted practices in ethics is commonplace in professions like accounting, medicine and law.” And this is particularly important for PR professionals because they are constantly battling the “spin doctor” stereotype.
Second, with the influx of social media and personal branding, behaving unethically can increasingly tarnish the reputation and career of PR professionals and firms, says Sugishita.
So, like professionalism, ethics — as a code of behavior — can be taught, reiterates Sugishita.
However, Susan Tellem, partner at Tellem Grody Public Relations, points out that ethics are mainly learned in upbringing. “You can put a person in a classroom, but if ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ isn’t there from childhood, it probably cannot be learned.”
“I believe we learn our ethical base from our upbringing, culture and other life experiences that we call upon when we think of ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’” agrees Gordon. “We then apply all of these components when an ethical situation arises in our PR job.”
But despite the fact that it is often your gut or that annoying little angel on your shoulder that speaks to you, ethics should be taught in every business or PR college class anyway, stresses Tellem.
What Would Be Taught in a PR Ethics Class?
While there are clear-cut rules that guide what PR practitioners do (just ask the FTC), there are also grey areas in terms of individuals and situations that are not covered by legal guidelines, like how you treat a coworker, says Willets.
“Normative values do not always translate into hardline laws that we can follow in the real world,” agrees Peter Lo, assistant account executive at Zeno Group. When teaching ethics, there should be anything but black-and-white rules.
Using a measuring stick is probably not a good idea either, he continues. It’s “morally unsound” to use selected case studies to dictate what all publicists should do, he explains. “Each publicist will have his or her own individual ideals to appeal to that will match their unique situations.”
On the other hand, despite all of the ambiguities regarding what one should and should not do in ethics, it is still worth questioning what makes a morally good or bad publicist, concludes Lo. “The best thing that could result from an ethics course in PR would be the moral awareness and consciousness that results from the classroom discussions and questions.”
PR ethics classes should also go beyond the ethical decision-making process and focus on compliance, says Willets.
In Collins’ ethics class, he reviews (among other things) the six core values of PR as outlined in the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)’s Code of Ethics: Advocacy, Honesty, Expertise, Independence, Loyalty and Fairness.
Willets and Tellem also recommend checking out PRSA’s Ethical Guidance for Public Relations Practitioners.
Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Dear Gracie is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.
The PRSA International Conference is always one of the highlights of the year for the public relations industry. It is one of the largest annual gatherings of public relations professionals and students who are getting ready to join the industry.
We here at PR Newswire look forward to attending this conference, exhibiting, and presenting at this conference every year. However, just attending and exhibiting might get boring year after year – but not when you have stellar keynote presentations from Soledad O’Brien from CNN, best-selling author Chris Brogan, and Joe Rohde – SVP and Creative Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering.
This year we decided to challenge PRSA 2011 attendees to see how creative they could be, and created the Earn It Challenge, an innovative and interactive content creation scavenger hunt. Attendees registered for the game using their smartphone and then were given all kinds of challenges from taking photos, making videos, and creating text based content. However, creating content was just the start to the game. We then asked game players to come back to the PR Newswire booth to upload their content to then be distributed to the appropriate online channels: The PR Newswire Facebook Page, YouTube Channel, Flickr, Twitter, and the PR Newswire Tumblr Blog.
The conference and game were both a big success, and we want not only want to thank everyone who played, but also to congratulate our top three winners!
Demitra Wilson from Equifax
Karren Jeske from Standard Process Inc.
Kimberly Miles from the Myrtle Beach Kimberly Miles from Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau / Chamber of Commerce.
It was a very busy week….and one that I look forward to again next year at PRSA 2012 in San Francisco.
How do you reach the Hispanic audience in the US? The same way you reach your other constituents – online, with social media and search engine optimization. PRSA Miami held a webinar this week focused on how PR pros can use SEO tactics to raise the visibility of their messages targeting the fast-growing US Hispanic audience.
Source: eMarketer, Hispanics Online: Demographics & Media Usage, 5/10
The vast majority of Hispanic households in the US have internet access – upward of 70%. Not surprisingly, search engine marketing is the most effective – and cost effective – means of marketing to this group. There are a few key differences, however, to which we need to pay attention:
Another important opportunity for communicators is the simple fact that there isn’t as much content out there in Spanish, which may explain why the US Hispanic audience tends to spend more time on web sites than internet users as a whole. Developing robust content – and deep linking to it from blog posts, press releases and other information you post online will not only help your SEO, but will be appreciated by your audience.
Spanish SEO basics:
As is the case with SEO generally, keywords play a central role in targeting the US Hispanic market, but with a caveat. “When choosing keywords never rely solely on straightforward translation of English words to their Spanish counterparts,” writes Jose Villa, founder and CEO of the digital ad firm, Sensis, in a recent blog post about Hispanic search. “Think about acculturation levels of your target Hispanic audience and adapt your keywords and ad copy appropriately. Your ultimate goal should be cultural relevance—reaching your audience on a personal level.”
Villa also notes that Hispanic search behavior is different, with many searchers preferring to employ longer, more specific search term strings. Part of this is due to the fact that Spanish is “wordier” than English – it’s been estimated that Spanish sentences are approximately 20% longer than English sentences, on average. However, Villa emphasizes the fact that the search strings employed by US Hispanics tend to be much more focused and targeted when compared to search terms used by English-speaking US searchers.
So what does this mean for the PR pro needing to build visibility with Spanish speakers in the US? As is the case with any PR effort that integrates SEO, the content is the starting point, and it needs to be focused. Given the specificity of search terms used, rigorous attention to subject matter is even more important when optimizing content for the Hispanic audience.
Once you’ve identified your keywords/phrases, using them properly in order to optimize your press release and inform search engines correctly about the content is important. Don’t stick important words down at the bottom of the page.
“Things like headlines, subheadings, bold face type and lead paragraphs are all important places to put keywords,” advises Sebastian Aroca of Hispanic Market Advisors. Writing naturally and remembering to use the words within the text of the release are also important. Another tip: don’t try to optimize a single document for more than one or two keywords/phrases. You’ll only end up diluting your message and confusing your online audiences.
Linking is always important, and basic SEO rules apply here, too. Use anchor text links within press releases and other online content to take readers (and search engines) to relevant pages on your web site. Deep links to specific product or information pages are best – don’t just link to the home page. And remember to link from specific keywords or phrases.
Villa also cautions communicators to expect a higher number of new visitors to the web site. “Design the web site for people who have never been there before, and think about how you’ll get them to come back,” he notes, adding that linking through to a Spanish-language landing page is also essential.
Finally, it’s important to realize that SEO is limited to a single process or one campaign. Optimizing content to develop high visibility in search engines requires ongoing effort. The good news is that the results are easy enough to measure – work with your web team to get access to your web site analytics, so you can understand how much traffic different press releases and other content generated. You can also keep an eye on search rankings to gauge your success, too. Staying on top of search results and referring traffic will enable you to determine what tactics worked well – so you can continue to fine tune your efforts and develop lasting interaction with the US Hispanic market.
Want more information on Hispanic SEO, digital PR and other online communication tactics? Follow the panelists on Twitter!
Ann Marie Herrera, Fleishman-Hillard: @FHHispania
Silvia Prado, Logos PR : @LOGOSPR
Sebastian Aroca, Hispanic Market Advisors: @HispanicMarkets
Jose Villa, Sensis Agency: @jrvilla
Authored by Sarah Skerik, vice-president, social media, PR Newswire