Week 7 – Legal Issues and Moral Values in the PR Profession

Photo from Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Using the three-pronged approach described in my Week 1 post, describe your reactions to legal and ethical dilemmas of PR professionals and the profession as a whole.

  One thought on “Week 7 – Legal Issues and Moral Values in the PR Profession

  1. October 10, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Alright so it’s no surprise that as PR practitioners, we have to be very intentional with how we approach our publics and this without a doubt requires being ethical. But my question is how do be serve our clients and their publics with the best intentions? To a certain degree, we are trying to either serve one or the other but how do we serve both?

    I will try my best so answer this question later in the post but for now I want to focus on ghostwriting. Remember the show on Noggin, Ghostwriter? That orb looking thing was really cool…but in the PR world, ghostwriting is not like Ghostwriter. I’ve always known ghostwriting existed, I just never acknowledged it as an actual facet of everyday writing. Our textbook defines ghostwriting as, “writing something for someone else that will be represented as that person’s own pint of view” (11). It continues to say that PR writers use ghostwriting in many ways but what I found the most surprising was that PR writers use ghostwriter to write presidential speeches. Honestly, I’ve always been aware that beyond the charismatic delivery, every presidential speech came from the “hands” of someone else but deep down? I’ve never wanted to believe it. It is difficult for me to trust our country’s leader when just about every time he (of in the future, she) speaks, it’s not really his (or her) words. But, in this day and age, it’s necessary to have his/her speeches written in the most inspiring and captivating/believable way. To get to the point, I find this to be an ethical dilemma. I’m sure that presidents tell whomever is writing the speech what he wants to convey and express, but to me it seems like they are almost plagiarizing. Do PR practitioners ever get credit for these speeches? Do presidents ever cite the PR practitioner at the end of his speech? Nope. He takes all the credit for it. And as the public, we accept this is being OK.

    Check out this speech, for example. This was one of President Obama’s most talked about speech after being inaugurated. Because of its topic of racial issues in America, it created quite a stir in America and was the topic of conversation around the dinner table in many family’s homes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrp-v2tHaDo

    At the end of the day I think as a general public we need to ask ourselves two questions: If we know that presidential speeches are not written by the President, are we accepting of the words enough to trust the President? And, if we are accepting enough, is it fair to then question the President on his integrity? Like I said, this is quite the ethical dilemma.

    After reading through chapter two in our textbook I learned that despite the ethical implications of PR writing, there are truths that need to always remain true. We should always be honest and accurate. We should always be prepared to take responsibility for our writing. We need to always research and investigate our statements and facts. And perhaps most importantly, we need to always preserve the values and beliefs of the company/person we work for. I’m sure that for all of you, these truths just go without saying. But how easy is it to post something on twitter without thinking about the consequences? How easy is it to write something based on our emotions in a moment of weakness? As PR practitioners we need to always be on our “A-game” when writing in the voice of another. I would like to learn more about how PR practitioners can be ethical to their company while simultaneously remaining ethical to ourselves. This is why it is so important to believe and support the organization we work for so that in moments of pressure we do not let our ethical standpoints fall in the cracks.


    • chelseafenwick
      October 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      Kristen! I agree I had no idea what ghostwriting was before I took this class and actually looked it up. I didn’t even think about the fact that PR practitioners are involved in presidential campaigns. I guess it makes sense. I think PR is behind a lot more than we think about, like speeches. With such a broad array of topics and fields the limits seem endless. I also thought what you posted about Obama was interesting, because you are right that was a huge topic for a while.
      Also with ghostwriting it’s actually very professional or at least can be. This is how a lot of freelancers make their money. It’s kind of freaky though, almost like the “telephone effect” people perceive things differently than the last person who said it. Sometimes I think there will be one thing conveyed yet another meaning. I wonder how popular this will be in the future.

      • October 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm

        Chelsea, PR is definitely behind a lot more than we think. It’s reassuring to know that PR practitioners are so versatile and can be used in so many different avenues however, it’s also somewhat disheartening to know that nowadays so much of the media relies upon the writing of others. I think your statement is very true about how ghostwriting can be very professional. I imagine that most up-and-coming PR practitioners dabble in ghostwriting at some point in their career as a necessity. I suppose it’s something we all have to be prepared to do and can begin practicing now by being as professional and succinct as possible!


    • October 18, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      There was a movie that came out I think in 2008/2009 called The Ghost Writer. It was about an author who agrees to write the autobiography of a British Prime Minister who has left Britain due to a scandal with the Iraq war. It was actually a pretty engaging movie, although most of it was suspense. But I that was the first time I had heard the term ghost writing. The main character in the movie, played by Ewan McGreggor is simple called Ghost Writer in the movie and his character has no other name. They implied that most of the stuff he wrote while Prime Minister were actually the work of an entire ghost writing team. Presidential speeches are supposed to be flawless and effective, and I don’t think most Presidents are very confident in their speech writing.

      • October 18, 2012 at 4:07 pm

        Kristen, your points about ghostwriting are excellent. It does raise a very significant issue about the way that politicians use campaign and speech rhetoric and how people accept these messages. I think the only way that this issue will come to light is if the PR practitioners and speech writers bring the issue to light for people. In situations such as presidential elections, the content of the speech is just as important as the delivery, so it is imperative that the writing in a speech be well crafted reviewed and edited to the dots on the i’s. Every politician is not an English major or PR practitioner (George Bush) but along the same line, PR practitioners are not always talented public speakers. I think the reason this practice is accepted by the public is because we often find ways to take two things that can compound to make each other better and we are fine with it. Finally, in regard to the subject of ghost writing in general. I think this is an interesting topic in general. The comment about the movie about the autobiography, often athletes and others who are not writers will have a second author on their autobiography for the purpose of making sure they don’t sound unintelligent. It is an issue in many facets including PR.

    • October 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm


      Ghostwriting is something that most of us don’t realize or become aware of until you are on the other side of it. Obama is known for speaking well and giving very good speeches. The little fact hiding is that he didn’t write any of it! This is something that I was and many others are unaware of. Now that I’ve studied and learned the art of PR I realize this happens more often than not. It’s kind of like tipping at a restaurant. People don’t see it as a big deal or think about it half the time if they have never worked in the service industry to receive tips. Once the shoe is on the other foot, perspectives start to change.

  2. jdotson8
    October 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    The Penn State scandal started roughly a year ago. News first broke after Joe Paterno, the then-head coach, won his 409th career game and became the all-time winningest football coach in Division 1 football. I always thought the timing of the scandal was bizarre, considering that news broke days after Paterno’s feat.

    After the scandal broke – the allegations of Jerry Sandusky, the alleged incident that Mike McQueary witnessed, what the school and Paterno did and didn’t do – Penn State faced a lot of criticism. How could Penn State cover something like this up for several years? What would they do about Joe Paterno because of his involvement?

    The school answered those questions by firing Paterno and attempting to remove historic significance around his name. The NCAA came down with harsh sanctions and vacated more than 100 wins dating back to 1998. Penn State removed the famous statue of Paterno outside their football stadium. In a matter of months, Joe Paterno went from Penn State’s saint to one of their biggest villains.

    Penn State went wrong with their “football over everything” mentality, but as the NCAA pointed out in the press conference about the school’s sanctions, a lot of schools have that same mentality. Colleges get money from their athletics, and in the case of most schools, football is the main draw.

    I learned things just the way everyone else did – through television, Internet and social media. I learned a lot about how big football is with colleges, and how sometimes – especially in this case – it can come back to bite you. I was surprised by everything that came out, from the original accusations to what has happened over the last year – the NCAA coming down with sanctions, Paterno’s name essentially being erased by the school who cherished him years before. I’d like to know more about the “football over everything” mentality with schools and how true that really is. It would be cool to see a study or two about that.

    For a while, Penn State’s PR department will be busy with questions about this scandal. I’m sure they’re already sick of it now, and they’ll face these questions for years to come. Eventually the fury may die down, but it will never be forgotten.

    • October 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      Joel, you know I think I feel like their PR department, I’m sick of hearing about the Penn State scandal! (hahaha) I’m not sick of hearing about it from an ethical standpoint, I’m just tired about hearing people defend their former coach and praise their football team. I don’t understand the football over everything mentality myself. To me, college is much more than a football team and if society starts making ethical (or in this case, unethical) decisions out of a love for a game, then I think we’ve taken a pretty bad turn for the worse. I feel bad for their PR department when all of this came down. I can’t imagine how they must have felt in those moments when the story was breaking–mortified, anger, taken advantage of, shame…their emotions were just as raw as the team members but they had to step it up and take control of an otherwise detrimental situation and do it with poise and professionalism.


    • October 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      Joel, I am glad you commented on this. For our class with Gina last semester I actually wrote my primary blog post about the Penn State scandal and its ethical relationship to the field of public relations. Interestingly enough, professors at Penn State were quoted using this scandal as an exact model of how not to react in a public relations crisis. This is a perfect situation when integrity and honesty would have simply saved the university. This was an especially important message given the standing of Penn State as a highly moral, ethical and respectable institution. I think in this case, not only the PR practitioners respond incorrectly and did not properly plan for a situation of this magnitude, the most important factor the ethical perspective of the entire university were thrown into question. This was thanks to poor PR work when the story first came to light. There has never been a more perfect example of simply being honest and ethical in your communication with the public.

  3. chelseafenwick
    October 11, 2012 at 12:40 am

    Well there are many companies and things that have popped up in the news lately that come to mind when I think of ethical or moral issues regarding PR. Because PR involves so much communication, legal and ethical issues are bound to happen in your career.
    I learned a lot from Intro to PR class that made me really think.

    One big scandal of this last year was the Kenneth Cole tweet that was considered very tasteless and rude to some people. The tweet can be viewed here http://mashable.com/2011/02/03/kenneth-cole-egypt/. The tweet was labeled offensive and what I think I learned in any situation dealing with PR is the every message you release influences consumers or others opinions about you. And that everything you write is available for people to view. Everything I view/watch/see is related to social media. I check my Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, and a few others almost daily which means I am constantly fed with what is going on in the world.

    What surprises me is that there are so many offensive things nowadays. Now, this could be due to the internet where everything is on display, yet I think many people get easily upset about things that shouldn’t get tumultuous.

    For example, politics someone takes something out of context and it’s a topic discusses for months. I think with Kenneth Cole, it wasn’t that he meant to sound pompous it was just taken the wrong way.

    I would definitely like to know more about where, when, why…i.e. who got wind of this and labeled it offensive? Was it just offensive in Egypt or other countries as well? I think there is so much to PR that I still need to learn and I have only scratched the surface.

    • October 11, 2012 at 5:03 pm


      You make a valid point in saying that Kenneth Cole’s words may have been misconstrued. However, as a professional in the media industry whose name is his actual brand, he has to be especially careful in how he represents himself. This means taking extreme caution when posting on social media websites because his company is all about him. If he says the wrong thing it is expected that the media will catch wind of it and blow things out of the water. But maybe he didn’t even say the wrong thing, it doesn’t matter. If he offended someone somewhere it’s a consequence of being too candid in the public sphere. I do feel for him, just as I feel for many other celebrities, designers, and other people in the public eye when they make flubs that turn into nightmares. It’s not easy being under such a big microscope all the time. I like what Gina said in class the other day about creating two accounts for social media websites–one that is heavily protected and personal and another that is meant for the public’s eye. I think the only way to fully protect one’s self from a political or media scandal is to keep their personal thoughts personal and keep their professional thoughts public.

      Great post!

    • October 17, 2012 at 10:34 pm

      I agree with you that because of the fact that PR deals mainly with communication with the public, there are going to be way more opportunities for legal and ethical issues to arise. With the world of social media today, people have to be very careful what they say and post online, especially if they are a big name person. However, we do have freedom of speech and you can say just about anything now-a-days and get away with it. Look at TV today, they say small swear words on some mainstream tv shows and there is so much sex and violence displayed and it is acceptable. Even 20 years ago, there is no way there would be anything on tv even close to what is on today. People keep pushing and pushing the envelope, it’s kind of scary to think about what the ‘norm’ is going to be in 20 more years. 5 year olds have cell phones now, my 1 and a half year old niece has her own ipad, she can’t even talk yet but she navigates around on an ipad. I think you are right about people needed to not be so sensitive though, some people take things so seriously and literally when they should just relax. Life is too short to freak out about the small things. Some people think differently than others and what may be funny to one person, may be offensive to another and that is just the freedom of speech and diversity. People need to get over it and realize that everyone is different, they may not understand or agree with someone but they need to accept them for their differences.

  4. October 17, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    The profession of public relations as a whole comes across many ethical issues, of many degrees. The hardest position in the field would be doing PR for someone who is in the public eye. Not only do you have to do publicity work and set up deals, events and scheduling, but you have to clean up the mess and make up for mistakes that this person has made.

    A relevant example of this that was announced today is that Nike dropped Lance Armstrong from endorsement deal the same day that he steps down as chairman of Livestrong NPO. The reason for why Nike dropped Armstrong is for years of rumors that he was using performance enhancing drugs.

    This is big because this is the second time that Nike has ever dropped a celebrity endorsement. Nike didn’t even drop Tiger Woods! Michael Vick was the first in 2007 after he pleaded guilty to illegal pit bull fighting and gambling charges.

    Performance enhancing drugs is something that if an athlete does is both illegal and unethical.

    To most people this is nothing new. Lots of athletes have taken part in performance enhancing drugs. This is something that has changed the way sports are played and respected. The question on people’s minds is why did Nike all of a sudden decide to drop Armstrong? The story is still being researched and investigated.

    Armstrong announced his decision to step down from the charity in an early morning statement today, Wednesday. Within minutes, Nike said that it would end its relationship with him, “due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade.” (espn.com)

    Now UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) has a 20 day window to decide if they want to strip Armstrong of his titles. That is huge! Armstrong has found himself in quite a pickle. Probably a bigger pickle for his PR team to deal with. Talk about a headache!

    I bet the people, and I say people because I cannot see only one person doing PR for Armstrong, are working on a plan as the best way to handle this situation. Should Armstrong give a personal statement? Should he admit fault? Will this ruin his reputation?

    • October 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      I agree with you that the PR profession comes along with many ethical issues. We as PR practitioners are faced with many obstacles when it comes to making morally sound decisions. Definitely being in the public eye is challenging because you have to walk on egg shells and always hope you make the right decision. No matter what you do, not everyone will be happy, so you need to be able to take criticism. PR people are typically the people that are going to announce the good things going on in their company as well as announce how they plan on fixing the mistakes their company has made. This doesn’t mean lying or making things up, this means being truthful about what your company did and taking responsibility for your own mistakes. That’s crazy to me about the Nike issue, they basically made the decision that steroids, gambling and dog fighting is unjust and not a good way to represent their company, but having multiple affairs on your wife with many different women is acceptable and will boost their companies reputation. I suppose it’s difficult to make the decision on things like this as far as what is acceptable and what is just too touchy of a subject to be broadcasted in the public eye. I think having multiple affairs in your marriage should warrant a company for dropping him as well though, I would have if it were my decision. It is a wide known fact and pretty publicly accepted for athletes to take steroids, almost all of them lie about it and everyone just turns the other way or gives them a slap on the hand if they need to prove their self in the public eye.

    • October 18, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      What a job for that PR person! To be one of the only people ever dropped from Nike is something that will stick with you for a long time. However it is odd that they did not drop Tiger Woods after his infidelity with his wife, i feel like that is something that would not fend well in the public eye, because it didn’t. In my opinion I think what Lance did is more forgivable then Tiger… but i guess thats where ethics differs from person to person.

  5. October 17, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    There are obviously going to be ethical and unethical people in any career field and the world of PR is no different. In the PR field, there are a lot of ways people can be unethical and outsiders that know nothing about the field tend to think it is all about “spin.” This drives me crazy when people say this. I just got in an argument the other day with someone at my work because I told them I am a PR major and he said, “oh so all you do is spin right? That’s basically all PR is.” I was not very pleased. Anyway, to be a good PR practitioner, you need to be ethical and truthful at all times. Being human I do understand this may be easier said than done and it can be very challenging at times. No one is perfect, but we can all strive to be close. In the PR field sometimes it can be difficult because if you have a great job you love, making good money and you’ve worked their a while, then your boss asks you do lie or do something that is morally wrong in your eyes and that you view as unethical, what do you do? Do you leave the job that is paying your bills and that you feel secure at? Or do you stand up for yourself, say no, you’re not going to lie? Sometimes as a PR practitioner you may be faced with situations similar to this. A sound and ethical PR person would stand up to their boss and let them know they are not comfortable lying, but this would be a very tough decision. I find ghostwriting to be interesting but I don’t really agree with it. If I read something about someone or something that someone supposedly said, I want to know it came directly from them, not from someone else paraphrasing their thoughts or writing what they think the other person would say. I feel like ghostwriting is kind of cheating and it’s out of pure laziness on the boss’s or whoever’s part. PR prides itself on being honest and accurate at all times, if everyone, or at least most, in the PR career field would follow this, we would build a better reputation for ourselves and outsiders wouldn’t think so negatively.

  6. October 18, 2012 at 7:18 am

    The problems with being dishonest are that they create more problems than they originally intended to solve. Once a lie has been exposed it is very difficult to gain the public’s trust again. As to why people are unethical is very hard to put into words. It could be something as simple as trying to take a shortcut, create a false product, or for publicity. The problem is that if that lie or dishonesty is discovered, then the connection between you and your public is gone, and might never come back.
    The most recent example I can think of where dishonesty backfired was with former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger began a book tour promoting his biography “Total Recall” (a horrible, horrible joke on the title of one of his movies) and began to discuss chapters from the book with members of the press; including the chapter about his affairs. He came off as extremely arrogant and unsympathetic to his ex-wife Maria Shriver while at the same time Schwarzenegger was trying to restart his acting career with a new movie coming out this fall. Whether or not people believed Schwarzenegger if he was truly sorry for his actions and how they’ve affected his family, nobody trusts him because of what he said to his public. He told multiple lies that all saw the light of day and now he’s attempting to rebuild his image for his new movies.
    PR should be about the honesty of you, your company or those you represent. PR shouldn’t have to be a tool used for whenever someone goofed up and decided to make a stupid decision that threatens the companies’ image.

    • October 18, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      I love that you brought up the Schwarz! I kind of agree with you. I almost wonder if this whole book idea was just to get himself out in the world again. Maybe he figures, if negative press works for Lindsey Lohan, it will work for him. At first he was in the limelight constantly while doing movies. Then he was constantly in the news when he was running and became governor. Its been a little while since we heard about him, so he thought he would pull this stunt. It is sad though that it was at the expense of his ex-wife. I really do wonder what all these Hollywood stars’ PR people are really like to let scandals like these continue.

      • October 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm

        I also wonder where the PR professionals are when it comes to stars. I think timing can be everything, and some times it is best to stay out of the public eye until you get yourself back together, or make a public statement and air out everything that has happened.
        Charlie Sheen is a great example of how he rolled with his mistakes. However crazy he is, he bounced back after he left Two and A Half Men with his Anger Management show. Too perfect!! I guess if you are going to be crazy, get paid to do it on TV, or at least that is how Hollywood sees it….

  7. October 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Ghostwriting seems to be a tricky topic. On one hand, as the speaker, you may not always have the ability (or the time) to write the best-written persuasive speeches. So I can see the need for a ghostwriter. However, many people are unaware that not all speakers write their own speeches, so when the audience finds out they feel betrayed, especially if the speaker is someone of high authority.

    PR practitioners are prepared to not receive acknowledgement for their writing during the speeches, but in many cases they are recognized after. One great example of this is one I recently came across was about Jeremy Lott, a ghostwriter who wrote a memoir for former governor of Maryland- Marvin Mandel. While he may not have received acknowledgement that he wrote it, he was acknowledged on the cover “with Jeremy Lott.” The article also covered other politicians such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and how they interact with their ghostwriters, which was pretty interesting. http://spectator.org/archives/2011/12/21/ghostwriters-gone-wild

    Even in our book, it states “no president since Abraham Lincoln has written his own speeches in their entirety.” (12) So maybe it should be expected by now that the president does not write his own speeches, regardless of how much we would like to think that they have the time and skills to do so.

    As PR practitioners we should watch carefully the lines of ethics and what we stand for. We are advocating for honesty, fairness and loyalty. However, all of these can be difficult to handle at once. We personally may have ethics that we live by, while you may have to cross those in order to uphold the reputation of your company. This can be difficult to do at times, and you must make the decision to either follow your personal ethics, follow those of your job, or somehow attempt to make a compromise.

    • October 18, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      Its so weird to think that some of the most memorable speeches of all time have not been written by the people who spoke them. For instance JFK made “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” and to think he didn’t even write that. Sometimes people who are writing these sometimes famous speeches can believe they deserve credit, but i agree with you that we as PR professionals need to be prepared for not getting any credit for the hard work we have done.

      • October 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm

        I get what you are saying about the JFK speech, but I like to think that important parts of the speech, like the one you quoted, were thought up by the president with their speech writer. Either way, whether a person got help writing a speech or not, it is still impressive. Plus a lot of famous speeches had more to do with delivery than the words. A speech is just taking the written word and expressing it to a public. I think as long as the speaker is a part of the writing/creative process, and they do not take credit for writing it, its ok.

      • October 18, 2012 at 4:17 pm

        It definitely is weird to think about it, since these speeches have gained so much attention, and will go down in history as great speeches- come to find out they may not have written them. But, I definitely agree that at the time of the speech, it doesn’t seem to matter as much who wrote it, but how it is presented. By JFK standing up and saying it, it was so much more powerful than if that PR professional had said it. I can imagine it would not have gone over as well.
        In a way, I think we know that, and that is the reason we stand behind great speakers and let them do the talking, so we can do what we are best at: the writing. Granted, there are those out there who can do both. I am not one of those people.

    • October 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm


      “PR practitioners are prepared to not receive acknowledgement for their writing during the speeches, but in many cases they are recognized after.” I totally love this statement because its not about us it about the people we work for. As to who get the credit that can be sorted out after the fact just focusing on getting the job done!

      “As PR practitioners we should watch carefully the lines of ethics and what we stand for. We are advocating for honesty, fairness and loyalty. However, all of these can be difficult to handle at once. We personally may have ethics that we live by, while you may have to cross those in order to uphold the reputation of your company. This can be difficult to do at times, and you must make the decision to either follow your personal ethics, follow those of your job, or somehow attempt to make a compromise.”

      You made some amazing points sometimes lines do blur and its important that we are honest with ourselves about that simple fact. We are human sometimes for success we do unethical things. I agree it can be difficult to handle all at once but once someone become settle in the career they will adjust. Find there own moral professional values in this field and still be true the company and self.


  8. October 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    The topic of ethics has always interested me as it is something that does not have specific rules, I think as we grow as individuals and in the profession our ethics become more concrete. The whole profession can sometimes get a bad rap, calling us “spin doctors” and thinking we bend the truth. But in reality PR professionals have a code of ethics that makes sure we don’t live up to the stereotypes.

    The book also brought up dishonesty, which some people think of as bending the truth. I think this surprised me the most how so many people who are in the public eye can simply lie about something and let someone else clean up the mess. I stumbled across an article that talks about how a Wal-Mart PR person posed as a reporter to infiltrate a union meeting. This is my opinion is completely unethical, for someone to lie about who they are to obtain information is completely ridiculous.


    As a budding PR professional I have accepted that there might be a time when my ethics are called into question. There are always people out there that are willing to go “the extra mile” to make something happen, and that is when you have to decided where you personally lie. During this class we have learned that our reputation is everything and if we have tarnished relationships through unethical behavior then we really can kiss any sort of career behind.

    • October 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Thank you for sharing that Wal-Mart article. I cannot believe that happened! That reminds me of the movie “Never Been Kissed” only in that one, no one had a problem because she was in love LOL. It stinks because its people like her who give PR a bad reputation! I also love how Mercury came out with a statement making sure to cover their you-know-whats. I also like your point about public officials lying to the public. I totally agree! Its amazing that they always think they won’t get caught. Honesty is so simple, and we learn it when we’re five. Just do it, tell the truth! I also like your realistic view on ethics in our own careers. We almost have to make the decision right now- are we going to go into this knowing we might have to make that hard decision one day? Or do we get out now, before we ruin our career later.

    • October 22, 2012 at 2:11 am

      I agree, I think each situation is different and needs to be handled in the way that will work best for what the scenario is. We can try to be prepared for when a situation occurs but we won’t know for sure until we are dealt with the cards. It’s up to us to prove ourselves once we are on the spot. True character shows once a person is given a chance to display it. How we chose to react is where our integrity is hidden.

    • October 22, 2012 at 2:56 am

      I have given the people who will “go the extra mile” a lot of thought. At first it seems like they will have significant advantage over someone like me, who has decided to be totally ethical in his business practices. They will not say no, they will provide the best image imaginable (literally) in a time where the client has been caught up in something bad. So it seems that people who lie would be the most desirable. Well…there is another side to that idea I suppose. History shows us that those organizations that hide information are generally not trusted, have bad reputations, or fail (i.e. politician sex scandals, oil spills, celeb’ drug issues, faulty products, etc.) In the end it will certainly pay off for a career if we are honest, and open with our publics.

      The day will almost certainly come when we are asked to do something that we may regret. I am going to try SO hard to make sure that when I find myself in that position, I remember that my conscience is worth more than any job.

  9. October 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    To be honest, I never really knew a whole lot about plagiarism, copyright, or trademarks (other than you can get in trouble if you use someone else’s work). This chapter really went into depth about the laws and guidelines surrounding these issues. When it comes to ethical standards in general, I had already studied the PRSA’s code of ethics, but I really liked learning Kathy Fitzpatrick’s approach. I had not really thought about the obligations she listed; fidelity, justice and harm. What I like is those are three simple things to guide every possible ethical decision you have to make. Another good idea she had was to picture the person who would be most affected by your decision and justify it to them. Talk about owning up to your decisions! I was also intrigued by the ethical issues surrounding privacy. I think as PR professionals we will face this more than we expect. I especially think so since the book described the situation of using what an employee said without getting their permission as a break in privacy. This made me think once again how important it is that we get EVERYTHING approved and in writing. CYA!!!

    I am always surprised by the unethical decisions people make these days. Maybe it is no different than it used to be, people are just getting caught more now. Either way, I’m really only surprised because I tend to always want to see the good in people. I understand that you are always going to have a few bad apples who do the wrong thing, which is why I feel it is SO important that as new emerging PR professionals we always think about the ethics of the situation. I think PR pros are faced with tougher and tougher situations every day, but need to stay strong and follow their principles.

    I appreciated the breakdown of copyright law in this chapter, however I must say I am still confused. It would be nice to have a better understanding of this since it does affect our job so much. I also would like to learn more about what to do if a bad decision was already made. I’ve learned a little bit about crisis communication, and I think this is very important to learn when you are talking about doing the right thing. Sometimes someone else in the company made the bad decision, and you’re the one left cleaning up the mess. The public appreciates a bad situation handled well, much more than another situation handled poorly.


    • October 18, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      I think the most confusing part about copyright laws today (for me anyway) have to do with the Internet being so widely available for everyone to use. So where do we draw the line and how do we know there isn’t going to be a lawsuit waiting for us around the corner for something we were unsure of in the first place?
      Chapter 12 tries to give us something to go off of for this, describing the basic limits to copyright via the Internet. It discusses the differences between fair use, licenses implied in fact, express licenses, and private lists. We have vaguely gone over the idea of these in class when discussion photo use, and how we should try to use our own images instead of using images from the Internet to help avoid this all together. The biggest issue with buying images is that they can be so expensive! I would not want to pay hundreds of dollars for an image I may only use a handful of times, but at the same time I do not want to pay thousands of dollars because I illegally used someones work.
      I worry a lot when I am working for the website at my job about whether or not using other images would be harmful to the company, but since we are usually promoting the companies or products that we are using the images for, I was told that copyright issues would not come up. I would think that would be true, since we are not harming the company, but rather increasing awareness.

  10. October 19, 2012 at 3:11 am

    When I first entered college I was going to be a police officer…then a business man (because I had no idea what I was going to do), then a journalist, and finally I got it right and majored in good ol’ Public Relations. I had several preconceived notions about PR before I got into it, but many of them were not true. The first and most blatantly incorrect being that PR people were generally dishonest. It is a stigma that will follow the field (assuming the person thinking about PR even knows what it is) for the foreseeable future.

    Then I did some reading and found I was wrong. THEN I took Lolita’s PR Ethics course, and was blasted by the truth of it. If you want to be successful: monetarily, morally, emotionally, spiritually, etc.; then you MUST be honest.

    “We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” – that is taken directly from the “Honesty” section in the PRSA code of ethics. Since I learned that 2 years ago, almost every course I have had on PR deals with ethics at some point, and I have attended multiple events/seminars dedicated solely to ethics! It must be a Mission Critical Element!

    Regardless of its importance, over and over and over we see that organizations and individuals still get it wrong. If proof is needed, read some of the previous post. George Santayana warned us by letting us know “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I have read many a case-study in which a business or person has chosen to try to avoid the truth, lie, or lighten the truth and it always ends in disaster, or arrest, or divorce, or resignation. Here is something that I wonder: Why is it that organizations will not learn from all the failures of all the Tiger Woods or Exxon Mobiles in throughout history?

    No matter what, good PR is finding something (person or organization) whose message and values you can appreciate or adopt, and building up for their integrity in the good times, and using it to make good all mistakes in the bad.

    • October 22, 2012 at 1:33 am

      Officer Paul! Haha, sorry I couldn’t resist. Public relations as a whole is looked at differently than most careers. It does have a reputation and famous people that represent what the job may have been in some cases, but certainly not all the time.

      Ethics truly is at the heart of PR. It stands behind everything we do, or at least it’s supposed to. There are always going to people out there in any job or scenario that go the unethical route and go the “easy” way out.

      You are right in what you said at the end. Even if an unethical situation occurs the best possible way tp handle it is moving forward with integrity and values.

      • October 22, 2012 at 2:39 am

        Ha ha ha ha yes I understand! It was mostly a childhood dream that took me a long time to shake.

        “Ethics truly is at the heart of PR.” I could not agree more. All of the case studies that I have done or learned about in class further the idea that honesty is the only policy. Open communication with the public will always pay out better than a lie. Look at Domino’s. I know it is the most overly attributed example out there, but it has good reason to be. They were faced with a damaging viral video in a time where viral videos did not effect massive organizations like they do regularly today. They responded with more than equal force…not dishonesty…not hidden information, they simply apologized to the public, made it right, and moved on.

        That is where it’s at. And there are many, many more examples like it, where open communication, and honest efforts to fix problems save the day.

    • October 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm


      ““We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” – that is taken directly from the “Honesty” section in the PRSA code of ethics. Since I learned that 2 years ago, almost every course I have had on PR deals with ethics at some point, and I have attended multiple events/seminars dedicated solely to ethics! It must be a Mission Critical Element!”

      I agree whole heartily with that statement you made. It all about the intent in which the ghostwritting is being used. In way we as pr professional are ghost we ofter heard from but rarely are we seen because we are in a way a voice of a company. It our job to make sure we communication at the highest standard possible. Often the people highest up aren’t the greatest communicators. They are just good with the business side if the were good communicators then we would not be need. With anything there is a pro and con to what ever we do but it the intent behind it the determine it nature.


  11. October 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    To be honest ghostwritting isn’t really no different from when a secretary types of an letter and her boss read over it and sign his name to it. We have no clue that he did actually sit down and write the letter. For example our letters of acceptance to college do you honestly think the head of admission writes every letter that comes out?

    Even President Obama, an excellent writer and speaker in his own right, uses a speechwriter. According to Ed Pilkington in New York of The Guardian, Obama’s chief speechwriter, Jon “Favs” Favreau, studied Obama’s speech patterns.

    Even in our book, it states “no president since Abraham Lincoln has written his own speeches in their entirety.” (12)

    The US Copyright is clear: any works of “the United States government”, i.e., by federal employees engaged in their employment for the government cannot be copyrighted.

    There is, however, a question about whether an ELECTED official is actually an “employee” of anyone, let alone the government. If the speeches were written by employees (and later read to the public by some official) then they would clearly be “government works”.

    Here’s another twist: the words themselves may be “free”, but the sound recording itself has its own separate copyright, which may be owned by the producers of the recording (e.g., the news network). So, unless you have your own recording directly from someone reading the public domain materials, you might still need a license to use copies from the clips recorded by someone outside of the government.


    here is what the White House says: http://www.whitehouse.gov/copyright/

    If we thought about it everything we do it on the behave of a company so we are too ghostwritters. How so you ask well we send out press releases that we very hard craft only to have them approved or disapproved by a chain of bosses. Only after it is approve can that press release go out if it meets the expectation of that company. We write pitch emails and media advisories etc. all on the behalf of CEO’s or bosses we may know or may never know personally. But we have a job to make the company look positive and reflect the company as humanly as possible. So i don’t really so an ethic problem on the surface but just like anything there is good and bad.


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