Central Ohio PRSA Well Represented at PRSA International Conference 

Many Central Ohio PRSA members journeyed to San Diego to participate (and win awards!) at the PRSA International Conference on October 18-22.

  • Ohio State PRSSA was recognized as the winner of the national PRSSA membership contest by recruiting more new members than any other chapter in the country.

  • Ohio Northern University PRSSA won a Dr. Frederick H. Teahan Award for Chapter Development and a Star Chapter Award.

  • Ohio University Scripps PRSSA received the Dr. Frederick H. Teahan Award for Outstanding Chapter Website.

  • Jaron Terry, APR, Fellow, PRSA, presented on “Getting It Right: Diversity and Inclusion in LGBTQ and Latinx Communications.

  • Lisa Arledge-Powell and Kevin Volz spoke on how to “Create a Video Storytelling Strategy That Gets Results and Shows the C-Suite the Value of Your Work.”

  • Dan Farkas, MBA, presented on “Cracks, Hacks and Backs: A Practical Guide to Multimedia Communication in 2019.”

  • MJ Clark, APR, Fellow PRSA, presented on “The Art of Managing Workplace Conflict.”

  • Katie Thomas, APR, John Palmer, APR, and Kery Francis, APR, represented Central Ohio at the Leadership Assembly.

We’re proud of all of our members who represented Central Ohio! And mark your calendars, next year’s event takes place October 25-27 in Nashville.

Ohio University Scripps PRSSA Chapter

Ohio State University PRSSA Chapter


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Insights from PRSSA International Conference

By Zach Ferenchak, Capital University, Class of 2021, PRSSA Chapter President

Not too long ago I was in beautiful and sunny San Diego, CA for the PRSSA International Conference. This was my second year in a row attending what is considered the largest gathering of PR students in the United States and it was just as special as the first year.

I come back to Central Ohio with new insights, new connections, and a new sense of inspiration and energy to bring back to my local PRSA/PRSSA community. Below I will recap some of my favorite moments and insights from this weekend of professional development.

Will Collie: Building the PR engine and planning for your career

Will Collie, General Manager of Southern California for Edelman, delivered the first keynote address of the conference. He spoke on what some of his best practices were for PR, as well as the status of the industry today.

One insight that stood out to me is that as individual practitioners, we are parts of an engine. In the past, a company may have had one spokesperson that would handle everything from media pitching to event planning, making him or her the entire engine. In today’s age of integrated marketing communications and digital media, though, a company’s PR function is a lot bigger. Each person chooses a specialization, a different part of the engine if you will. The collective efforts of people working together in unison, then, create the engine of your company that is its PR department.

Another aspect of Collie’s talk that stood out to me was that companies must constantly work on building trust with their publics. In the age of people not trusting PR and the media in general, this is huge. Collie finished his talk by stating that as individuals, we need to plan for our careers, be awesome at the jobs we have now, and be willing to try, because the occasional mishap is inevitable and will allow us to learn.

Transformational Leadership with Cheryl Procter-Rogers, APR, PCC, Fellow, MBA, MA

I feel like we could always learn and grow as leaders, so this session was something I was looking forward to. Cheryl Procter-Rogers is a PR strategist and coaches executives on leadership strategies. Her session was on how to become not just a great leader but a transformational leader.

One of the main takeaways I gained from her session was that as a leader, you need to embrace change as growth instead of shying away from it. Another point that resonated with me was that as a leader you must guide, motivate, and inspire. You are a role model for those who look up to you and as Procter-Rogers said, as a leader, people are always watching you. Doing all of this along with paying sharp attention to emotional intelligence and connecting with everyone in your organization will lead you well on your way to becoming a transformational leader. 

How to become the GOAT of PR with Kaye Sweetser, APR+M, Fellow PRSA

Kaye Sweetser was full of energy, inspiration, and passion to welcome us and kick us off on our busy Saturday of International Conference. The four main points that she hit on were clarity, creativity, critique, and passion. She stressed the importance of clear and complete storytelling as we look to create impactful campaigns in the future. She recommended the book Writing Without Bullshit to use as a guide for writing with clarity.

Creativity, according to Sweetser, meant being able to look at things from every angle and being a problem solver, a do-er. She suggested that if you don’t possess creativity in this sense, then maybe you should reconsider your career choice as a PR professional. 

“You better ask somebody,” is the Snoop Dogg quote that Sweester offered to address the importance of critique. Workshopping your work is key and should be done every time. Going along with that point, Sweester stressed the importance of collaboration. She stated that you should volunteer to do the hard things, share your knowledge, and lift others up. 

One of my favorite quotes from the weekend came from Sweetser and goes as follows: "You never have to cut someone down in order to stand up." This really resonated with me and was a great quote to end her session on.

Agency Sessions: PRSA Global Agency Panel, Nebo Agency Session

A huge aspect of the PR and Communications industry is agency life. So far this semester, Capital PRSSA has hosted two events focused around agencies, so being able to continue this deep dive into agency life was a fantastic experience for me.

Starting with Kimm Lincoln, President of Nebo Agency, I liked how she stressed the human-centered aspect of Nebo Agency. Lincoln built off of that point throughout her presentation as she discussed the importance of storytelling, a human tradition, and how audiences want companies to be a force for good, something that corporations sometimes forget but is a crucial aspect of the human condition.

The PRSA Global Agency Panel echoed some of these points while introducing new ideas as well. Every person on the stage echoed the idea of fostering a positive company culture and investing in your people as an agency. One idea that was echoed was making decisions with your company’s employees in mind first and foremost, and everything else will follow suit. 

Another theme that was praised was change, because if you’re not changing, then you’re probably going backward. Change must align with culture and the industry, and it is what successful agencies are doing. Pieces of advice for students such as myself included being a lifelong learner, being a reliable member of the team, and going the extra 10 percent, or “plus one” as one of the speakers coined.

Drawing 400,000 people to Columbia, S.C. for The Great American Eclipse with Tracie Broom and Merrit McNeely

A total solar eclipse is a rare event that allows us all to stop what we are doing and focus on something bigger than us. For the city of Columbia, S.C., the latest total solar eclipse proved to be bigger than the city as hundreds of thousands of new visitors flooded into the city to partake in a weekend of events leading up to the big day back in 2017.

Tracie Broom and Merrit McNeely, executives at integrated communications firm Flock and Rally, joined forces to share their knowledge on how this special weekend of tourism came together. It took over two years of planning and collaboration on a city-level, with public institutions partnering with local businesses to coordinate one of the largest weekends for tourism the city has ever seen. A key takeaway that I got from the session is that regional collaboration works better than competition. 

The session makes me inspired and hopeful for other cities to try something similar in the future. One of my colleagues from Scripps PRSSA, Katherine Keber, and I walked out of the session inspired to facilitate something similar for an Ohio city in the future. Seeing that Dayton, Ohio is in the path of the Total Solar Eclipse of 2024, we would like to provide them with some of our notes in hopes that it inspires the similarly-sized Ohio city to capitalize on the special occasion that awaits them in the future.

PRSA General Sessions: Bob Woodward and Laura Ling

As a student who is equally interested in journalism and PR, being able to attend sessions featuring legendary journalists was exciting and insightful for me. Bob Woodward and Laura Ling are both award-winning journalists who have done so much more than just typical news reporting. Both of these people have made history and have brought about change for the greater good, something that transcends the profession they were called to serve in.

Starting with Bob Woodward, he spoke on his experience in breaking the Watergate story and how it relates to today’s impeachment inquiry. Being able to connect recent history with the events of today provided an insight into today’s headlines that not a lot of news media talks about, so it was refreshing to see. His session reassured me that good journalism sparks conversations for the greater good and that journalism is vitally important to a thriving democracy.

Laura Ling’s keynote was impactful in a different way. It honestly was one of the most impactful speeches I’ve ever received and it’s message extends far beyond the session, the conference, and the profession in general. Ling retold a heart-wrenching story about her time as a prisoner in North Korea and the humanity that led to her eventual release. Ling was able to befriend the guards that despised her when they first met, and she noted that even though the culture of her captors varied so much from Western culture, common principles of humanity still prevailed and allowed her to live and connect with the people around her. Her speech made me think about how important love and understanding are and how those concepts can be applied to every aspect of my life, not just my career.

Concluding thoughts

Attending PRSSA International Conference allowed me to develop both personally and professionally. Being able to spend a weekend with like-minded professionals was invigorating and inspiring. I feel like I have found my niche, my people, and that feeling inspires me to come back here and do great things. I am grateful for the connections I made with friends old and new, and I look forward to continuing the conversation into the future as I further my professional development. San Diego was beautiful, by the way. I loved being able to explore the city in my downtime and look forward to the next time I may indulge in a California burrito.

I want to extend my sincerest thanks to Central Ohio PRSA for funding some of my trip and for allowing me to guest post on this blog. I also would like to recognize Capital University for funding part of my trip, and last but not least PRSSA/PRSA for putting together such a special conference. I look forward to continuing my development as a professional and hope to positively impact my chapter at Capital University with some of the new ideas and inspiration I have returned with.

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2020 PRSA Central Ohio Board of Directors announced

Executive Officers

  • President - Katie Thomas, APR – Elected 2018
  • Past President - Alicia Shoults – Elected 2017
  • President-Elect - Diane Hurd
  • Treasurer - Heather Sheppard
  • VP Planning & Procedures - Courtney Tobin
  • VP Membership - Homa Moheimani
  • VP Programs - Mike Vannest, APR
  • VP Communication - Serena Smith
  • Ethics Officer - Kerry Francis, APR

Directors at large

  • Wendy Schwantes                                          
  • Kristen Vitartas                                               
  • Lois Foreman-Wernet                                     
  • Alisa Agozzino 
  • Jennifer Rieman
  • Heather Clark

Assembly Delegates

  • John Palmer, APR
  • Natalie Kompa, APR


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Get Your Ethics On: 5 Tips for the Ethical Practice of Public Relations

By Kerry Francis, APR

PR ethics sounds pretty straightforward and boring – always be truthful, disclose conflicts of interest and don’t plagiarize, right? Yet when you dig into it, the ethical practice of public relations is a lot more interesting and complex. Our jobs are more complicated thanks to social media, data privacy, social activism and today’s news environment, just to name a few. As the profession wanders into new territory, so does our ethical practice. For example, how many of us have grabbed an image off Google or used a GIF of a popular movie on social media? I know I have. The Code lays out what media is ok to use in what cases - personally, it’s probably ok to use much of this media, but using it professionally can get into a gray area.

Today it’s more important than ever to understand what is and is not ethical, not to mention legal. And it’s important that our work aligns with our personal ethics. As we close out Ethics Month, here are five tips from this month’s Coffee Chat to help you apply ethical practices to your work.

  1. Know your Code. PRSA’s Code of Ethics is simple, sets a strong foundation and offers guidance on some common areas. As members, we have all agreed to practice according to this Code.

  2. Promote good journalism. News-ed classes teach journalism as the fair, unbiased reporting of facts. With citizen journalists, the constant news cycle and competition for eyeballs and clicks, that’s not always the case. As PR pros, we can promote good journalism by supporting the outlets that do a good job, helping journalists report balanced news and calling it out when reporters don’t get it quite right.

  3. Know the regulations around endorsement. The FTC’s endorsement regulations specify what needs to be disclosed and when. They help guide work with influencers and work produced in- house as well as considerations for posting on personal channels. Knowing this ahead of time can keep you and your organization out of trouble.

  4. Research your target companies. It’s important to know what a potential employer or client stands for. This helps avoid personal conflicts later. And it helps us counsel clients on becoming involved in an issue or business and when responding to a crisis. These issues are bound to come up – just look at the discomfort Ogilvy’s employees had with taking on Customs and Border Patrol as a client, and the internal backlash at Google for its handling of sexual harassment claims.

  5. If you’re not sure what to do, seek guidance. Sometimes the answer isn’t very clear, or it can be hard to understand all the implications of doing or not doing something. Talk to a mentor. Talk to me, your Ethics Officer. Or talk with PRSA National’s Board of Ethical Practices and Standards.

While most of us likely won’t have to wrestle with a BIG issue, PR ethics is still critical. Small steps taken every day build our reputation as individuals and of the profession.

Thanks to Hinda Mitchell, president of Inspire PR Group, for sharing her expertise at this month’s Ethics Coffee Chat.

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Spotlight on Ethics: The New Face of PR Ethics

It’s September, and that means it’s Ethics Month!

I know many of you are probably yawning. PR ethics is pretty straightforward – avoid conflicts of interest and ensure your press releases are accurate and not misleading, right? But ethics has become quite exciting and complex as the new landscape is changing the face of our profession.

Over the last few decades, we’ve seen drastic changes to how we do business and communicate.  Some of those changes include consumers’ greater emphasis on doing business with companies that are socially responsible, the 24x7 news cycle and citizen journalists, new communication vehicles like social media and the proliferation of and access to data. These changes have created some new ethical challenges for organizations and PR pros, including:

  • There are more reputation management opportunities and risks. How we promote good news and mitigate crises, especially in today’s constant news cycle, is more important than ever. Are we accurately representing an organization’s good works? Are we being transparent and timely when sharing negative information? When we have the job to repair the reputation of an organization or an individual, are we appropriately balancing protecting the organization with respecting the victims?
  • There is a greater emphasis on accurate, truthful information as consumers have access to more information. We’ve heard a lot about fake news in the last several years and know that we can’t spread misinformation, but it’s just as important to really think through how we present information and position information in a way that’s not biased.
  • We live our lives online and put a lot of data out there – as a PR pro, I love having access to data for planning and measurement. It’s important to be transparent when we collect data. Are we disclosing what are we collecting, how are we collecting it and what will be used for? If we use external resources to gather data, are they following ethical protocols? Also, if our organization stores data such as credit card numbers, personal contact information or health information, do we have the right safeguards in place? Do our practices ensure timely notification in the event of a data breach?
  • We must take steps to ensure we are inclusive as ethics and diversity and inclusion go hand in hand. Part of the ethical practice of PR is involving diverse viewpoints throughout our process. Not only is this ethical, it leads to better results. Is our project team diverse? Have we identified all target audiences and thoroughly researched each segment? Do our materials represent diverse stakeholders?

While the face of ethics is more complex than in the past, there are resources at the local and national level to help you. Local resources include me, your Ethics Officer. I am here to help you navigate ethical questions and connect you with resources. Also, the chapter offers ethics-specific programming. Our next Coffee Chat on Sept. 26 will feature a panel of PR pros talking about how they’ve navigated ethical issues. More information including registration details is available on PRSA Central Ohio’s website.

At the national level, the Board of Ethical Practices and Standards (BEPS) has posted ethics resources on the PRSA website. BEPS also is offering several events during Ethics Month

  • 26, noon – Social Media, The Law and Public Relations Practice (Webinar) – This webinar examines the major legal trends affecting the practice of public relations and digital communication, including social media policymaking, regulations of social media promotions and ownership of social media content.

Watch the Communities Homepage on MyPRSA for more information about these events.

Practicing PR in an ethical manner benefits the individual, the organization and the profession. During Ethics Month, take a moment to think about the new ethical challenges PR pros face today, and what steps we can take to keep our profession strong.

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Adulting 101: how informational interviews and a polished resume can help you stand out from the crowd

By: Sam Metcalf

I’ll never forget the spring semester of my senior year in college. It brings everyone a lot of stress. Finding a new job, somewhere to live, not having a meal plan anymore – all of it was hard for me. I said to myself over and over again “I wish there was a welcome weekend for post-grad so I could figure out what I was doing.” A lot of that doubt came from the fact that I didn’t have a job lined up after graduation. Graduation day crept up faster and faster, and my confidence levels fell lower and lower after each rejection email I received. I had great internship opportunities, I was involved on my campus, I had good grades. I really couldn’t figure out why someone wouldn’t hire me.

Luckily, my Aunt Pam, one of my biggest mentors and supporters, is an executive coach. I met with her to chat about my frustrations with this process and how hard it was for me to find a job. That’s when she introduced me to informational interviewing. A concept I had never heard of, but helped me land my first job. Note: I found out I got said job the day before I graduated! It will all come together – I promise you.

With that being said, I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to nail your informational interviews and make your resume stand out. I’m not an expert by any means, these were just things that really helped me along the way.

Informational Interviewing

We all know that networking can be exhausting. Going to a room full of strangers all trying to meet everyone else in the room is no bueno. Personal opinion. Anyways, if you find yourself agreeing with that, informational interviews can be an amazing solution! My Aunt Pam gave me this tip my senior year of college, and it 1) was the best tip I received as a graduating senior, and 2) helped me land my first post-graduate job!

How to start preparing for informational interviews:

  • Make a list of organizations! This is your “target organizations” list. Start by thinking of industries you think you’d enjoy working in ­– sports management, tourism, retail, government, IT, etc. Aim for 3-5 industries with 3-6 companies listed under each one. This does require a little bit of effort and maybe even some homework.
  • Tap into your personal network. Reach out to previous or current bosses, coaches, professors, and mentors to ask for 30 minutes of their time. You’ll want to formally type out your target organizations list and attach it to this email! I use the same heading that’s on my resume and cover letter just to stay consistent.
  • Meet at their office: A great way to learn more about job spaces is to go to them! If you get lucky and get an interview at this company down the road, you’ll be familiar with the space going into things.


In an informational interview:

  • Let them get to know you: Tell them hobbies you have, activities you are involved with, your career goals, passions, etc. This will help frame the entire conversation.
  • Discuss your target organization list together: Ask them if they know of other people who have worked with these companies and if their experience was positive or negative. After one of these interviews, you may be able to cross 2-3 organizations off of your list if they don’t match with your values and career goals.
  • Ask them about themselves: Their career history, their interests, their take on industry trends, etc. You have their undivided attention, so use it wisely! If you get nervous or anxious talking to strangers, compile a strong list of open-ended questions to take with you. Open-ended questions = conversation.
  • Take notes: One conversation I always made a point to have was about the target lits in general. Are these good companies to work for? Do you know positive or negative things about any company listed? You’d be surprised what you’ll learn! Jot these things down, and make sure to cross off a company if it doesn’t end up matching your personal values.
  • You’re not here to get a job: Going into an informational interview with the hopes that you leave with a job lead will only lead to disappointment. It’s just a conversation – for you to know them, and for them to know you. Be yourself, show your personality, laugh, and really engage with the person you’re chatting with.


After an informational interview:

  • Give them your thanks: Most people you’re chatting with will be on company time. After an informational interview, I would send a $5 Starbucks card through the app to express my gratitude. A quick “Thanks for your time today! Your next cup of coffee is on me” will really help make a lasting impact


Resume Tips

  • There’s less room for interpretation with numbers than with words. Use successful metrics when discussing a job duty or project you’re discussing on your resume.
    • "I wrote e-mail campaigns" (Weak)
    • "Crafted ten monthly e-mail campaigns to an audience of 1,582" (Stronger)
  • Get rid of your objective statement. You’re applying for a job – someone reading your resume knows what your objective is!
  • If you’re a recent grad, and you have a GPA that you’re proud of, by all means list the GPA. If you have a GPA that you aren’t so proud of, then don’t list it! Employers who want that information will give you an advanced heads-up if they want an official transcript.
  • I always avoid the use of pronouns to be more descriptive.
    • “I strengthened their web traffic.” (Weak)
    • “Grew Company A’s web traffic by 15% over a two-month period.” (Stronger)
  • Don’t list the same skill twice! If you had three internships that you’re listing on your resume, if you used InDesign in all three jobs, only list it under one position. This is the first chance you have to showcase how broad your skillset is!
  • Always, always, always send your resume and cover letter as a PDF!


I hope this was helpful for you! I know these are things I wish I would’ve learned earlier on. Make sure with the time you do have left in undergrad that you’re challenging yourself, taking the hard classes in your major, and taking classes with the tough professors. That’s where you’ll learn the most. Your experiences in this field are far more important than your GPA. If you need help preparing a target organizations list, fine tuning your resume, or preparing for an interview, I’m happy to help. Let’s chat – [email protected]

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How Influencers Must Adjust If Instagram Hides “Likes”

By: Logan Trautman

In an effort to relieve pressure on its users, Instagram is conducting trial runs of hiding the number of likes a post receives in markets around the world.

The new method comes after several studies have shown that the social media platform contributes to self-esteem issues in its users. By not displaying the amount of likes a post receives to the public, Instagram hopes its users will feel less judged, and focus more on sharing their stories. Users can still see how many likes their own post receives.

So, what does this mean for those users who make a living on Instagram? Will Influencers cease to exist without “likes”? Not exactly. However, the way they use the platform and measure their success will have to adjust if Instagram decides to implement its new model worldwide. Here’s how:

Engagement rates are a thing of the past

Initially, brands cared about how many followers their influencer partners had. This quickly transitioned to brands caring less about how many people followed influencers, but rather how many users engaged with their posts, seemingly proving that the content was read and consumed. But in a world where likes aren’t visible, engagement rates don’t hold the same weight.

Influencers will need to start focusing on different KPIs to successfully sell themselves, such as Instagram story views and link clicks to a brand’s website. For B2C brands focused on selling product, the ROI from influencers will evolve to actual sales made, whether in-store or online.

High-quality content is the only option

With the public unable to view the amount of likes a post is earning, and users feeling less judged, Instagram is bound to see an increase in the amount of posts being shared by users. This is great news for the platform, but for influencers it means more competition to get in front of their audiences. Influencers will have no choice but to spend time creating high-quality content that earns the attention it receives. Many will rely on their preestablished fanbase, but for those looking to grow (what influencer isn’t looking to grow?) content is key.

Heavy focus on loyal communities

Unlike other social platforms, YouTube for example, Instagram influencers haven’t been forced to reciprocate the engagement their followers give to them. In the past influencers could address their following as a group, or simply give their followers’ comments a “thumbs up”, but as competition for views increases, and the way engagement is demonstrated and recorded shifts, influencers will need to put more effort into building their followings, and ultimately turn it into a community. By responding to comments and messages, and including their followers in their content creation, influencers will be able to maintain and grow their fanbase.

Instagram Stories

It’s no secret that short form videos are becoming king in the world of content creation today, and with Instagram likes no longer being an applicable measure of success, Instagram Stories will be more significant than ever before. For those influencers who aren’t already using Instagram videos regularly, they will need to learn to not only pose for static photos, but now talk to their audiences through video and share compelling content in 15-second increments. Brands will focus on how many story views an influencer receives as a KPI and will start integrating Instagram story content as part of their partnership agreement with influencers.

What do you think about Instagram hiding likes from the public? Share your thoughts with us!

This post was originally posted on Inspire PR Group, and reposted with the author's permission.

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A Lesson in Ethics Courtesy of “The Great Hack”

By: Michael Vannest, APR

If you have not watched Netflix’s new documentary “The Great Hack” immediately schedule a date with your couch and tv and watch.

Over the course of two hours the documentary exposes how Cambridge Analytica, a data research group, obtained private information on citizens in the United States and Great Britain with the purposes of creating marketing and public relations content during the 2015 Brexit Vote and 2016 US Presidential Election.

“The Great Hack” raises many ethical red flags public relations professionals must address. Here are five of the most important.

  1. How much data and profiling is too much when creating social media ads?
    In “The Great Hack”, big data company Cambridge Analytica (CA) built profiles of citizens and voters in Great Britain and The United States to create personalized content to persuade their feelings on issues and candidates.

    The company was able to access data on 87 million people.  The information helped Cambridge Analytica identify “persuadable voters.” From there, the firm targeted blogs, websites, articles, videos and ads specifically at those voters until they saw the world the way Cambridge Analytica wanted them to.

    As PR pros we have an obligation of honest communication. Mining data that violates personal privacy to benefit business is very unethical. As PR pros we need to be aware of how much data we collect on stakeholders and understand how much is too much. In addition, we need to be mindful of the ways we use the data and understand creating content that exploits the data we have is also unethical.

  2. As PR pros are we being ethical when we create fear mongering content to convey our message?
    The main message of the documentary is that the Cambridge Analytica gave information to various political campaigns and helped to create voter profiles to disseminate fearful messages and persuade voters to vote for a candidate.

    Much of the content created was misinformation in the form of news stories and video news not true. The misinformation disbursed to the potential voters was what we now deem “fake news.”

    As PR pros and according to PRSA’s Code of Ethics we have an obligation to be honest and accurate in all communications and avoid deceptive practices. We simply cannot take information on an individual’s most private nuances to create fearful and deceptive content.

  3. Can we be ethical when dealing with a crisis?
    According to the documentary, Cambridge Analytica approached multiple public relations firms and as former COO Julian Whitehead said:

    "We spoke to tens of crisis PR companies that listened intently, went away to think about it, and came back and said, 'sorry, we can't associate ourselves with your brand'. I thought that's what they were there for.

    “It became impossible to get a voice.”

    From an ethical PR perspective, representing a company involved in a “scandal”’ can be difficult. And while it my seem impossible to represent a company during a scandal crisis without violating an ethical code it can be done.

    If a company can take responsibility for detrimental action, avoid making excuses and keep from spinning a situation then maintaining brand positivity can happen. It just takes some time to recover.

  4. Do we as PR pros have an obligation to call out employers when something seems unethical?
    Brittany Kaiser, was one of the main the whistleblowers on Cambridge Analytica. Knowing the repercussions of what would happen if she blew the cover on Cambridge Analytica, she felt she had a moral obligation to let people know the truth.

    It can be difficult to stand up for what is right. Especially when your career and livelihood may be on the line. But as professionals in an era of misinformation and “fake news” it is even more crucial that we keep our companies on the right side of ethics and morals. We owe ourselves, our clients and the public relations profession honesty and integrity.

  5. As PR pros do we owe stakeholders a more transparent communication with the fine print?
    In the documentary every time someone allowed a third-party app to log in to your social media account the user would have to agree to allow the app access to their profile. This allowed the company who ran the third-party app (in the case of the documentary, Cambridge Analytica) to gain access to all of your personal data. The user barely paid attention to what they were allowing. And even though there was a small link to a terms and conditions page paid no attention to what those terms were.

    According to PRSA’s Code of Ethics safeguarding confidences is one of the vital components of professional practice. Society has a right to privacy and as PR professionals we have an obligation to protected those rights of clients, businesses and stakeholders. Proper communication of terms and conditions needs to be at the forefront of websites, landing pages, and other areas where personal data is being obtained.

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Spotlight on Ethics: Social Media and Ethics

In today’s digital world, social media is an integral part of every communication strategy. We use it throughout the day in our personal and professional lives and find ourselves responding as fast as possible to take advantage of opportunities or mitigate crises. Unfortunately, sometimes those reactions can unintentionally get us into some sticky situations.

Building ethical practices into social media processes ahead of time can help avoid inadvertent problems. Questions to develop ethical social media processes include:

  1. What triggers the deletion of content? Social media is designed to generate conversation. Sometimes, that conversation may not go the way you want. While it may be tempting to delete negative posts, that limits the free flow of information. A documented policy clarifies when to delete a post – and when to not delete. Your policy should include narrow and specific reasons for deleting posts, such as the use of profanity, disclosure of confidential information and attacks directed at individuals or groups of individuals. Posting the policy on your social media channels creates transparency and can help avoid backlash if a poster is upset you deleted a post.

  2. Where will we source images and graphics? We all want to find that perfect photo or gif to include in a post, and there are many options at our fingertips. Know ahead of time where you will source image and graphics. In-house talent and stock photo services are easy, safe sources. If you search the internet for graphics, be sure they have a Creative Commons license. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of the license to see what it allows. Check with your legal counsel for specific guidance.

  3. Are you including necessary context? Some industries, such as the banking industry, require specific disclosures when talking about products and services. The Federal Trade Commission also has rules around sponsored content and advertising. Knowing those is an important first step, however, you can get into some grey areas outside of those requirements. Be sure to include any necessary context in posts so your followers have the information they need to make informed decisions. Are claims backed up by research? Are the people who are endorsing your product being compensated? Are you being compensated in some way to promote a product or service from another organization?

  4. What are our privacy triggers? Posting photos of customer and employee events is a great way to generate buzz for your organization. Since these posts occur in real-time, it’s important the team understands your process. Some areas to consider include posting photos of minors, obtaining signed waivers and notifying participants ahead of
    time the event will be photographed. Every organization will have different triggers based on the industry and culture. For example, posting photos of an invitation-only event for
    patients who are being treated for a specific condition could raise privacy and HIPAA concerns. Again, check with your legal counsel for specific guidance.

Thinking through these ethical considerations can help ensure social media channels are a positive tool to promote your organization. If you have questions about social media ethics, feel free to reach out to me.

Kerry Francis, APR is the Ethics Officer for PRSA Central Ohio. You can reach Kerry at [email protected].

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Spotlight on Ethics: The Ethical Use of Interns

Ah, summer! Many people will be taking time off to go on vacation, enjoy the weather and spend time with family and friends. While we all need and deserve time off, it can be difficult to cover things at the office. With all of our PRSSA chapter schools, hiring interns can be an easy and inexpensive – perhaps free? – way to keep things moving at the office.

As you prepare to hire interns, there are a few questions to ask yourself to make sure you’re using interns in an ethical way.

What should I pay my interns?

Compensation can be in the form of an hourly wage, class credit or a combination or both. While an unpaid internship sounds like a great solution when budgets are tight, getting something of value for free – the intern’s work – raises ethical questions. A few points to help determine compensation:

  • Are the interns replacing a regular employee? If an intern is doing work that you would pay another employee to do, they should be compensated.
  • Are you billing clients for the interns’ work? PRSA’s Board of Ethical and Practical Standards (BEPS) advises that interns should be paid if they are performing real, billable work.
  • Does your company have a policy? Some organizations have policies around if and how much interns are paid.

In addition to the ethical issues, there also are legal considerations when determining the compensation for interns. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires for-profit employers to pay employees for their work. In some cases, interns are considered employees. The FLSA uses the primary beneficiary test to determine if an intern is an employee – if an intern is the primary beneficiary of the internship, they aren’t considered an employee under the FLSA and you aren’t required to pay them. This U.S. Department Labor Fact Sheet offers more information, but check with your Human Resources Department or legal counsel for guidance.

What kind of work should I assign to my interns?

The first thing to remember is that the student is the primary beneficiary of the internship experience. While you benefit from the work your intern completes, the benefit to the student should guide your decision-making. You should be assigning your interns real-world, portfolio-building work that allows them to develop skills that will prepare them for that first job – not grunt work that no one else wants to do.

While you should be assigning your interns “real work,” it’s important to remember that they are students first. The deadlines you give them should be flexible enough to still allow the student time to complete an important school assignment or study for an exam.

How should I supervise my interns?

Supervising interns isn’t that different than supervising regular employees. The same processes apply, including setting goals, holding regular meetings to touch base on progress and offering ongoing coaching and feedback. You may need to spend more time offering an explanation about the work and your expectations, as well as helping your interns connect their work with the company’s objectives. This extra time spent is critical to helping interns gain real-world experience that they can learn from and apply.

If your interns are completing the internship for class credit, be sure you understand what documentation is needed for them to earn that credit.

Do employee policies apply to my interns?

A good rule of thumb is that, if you are paying your intern, all the same policies that apply to regular employees apply to interns. If you aren’t paying your intern, only broad policies that encompass non-employees such as contractors, vendors and visitors apply. This includes workplace violence and sexual harassment policies. Regardless of whether or not you pay them, it’s recommended that you have your intern complete the same orientation process as a regular employee – this ensures they receive the same information about policies and procedures, and it gives them a glimpse into what to expect when they start their first full-time PR job. Just be sure to point out any policies that don’t apply to them as interns so there’s no confusion.

An important note: Interns are young and may have little to no experience in the workplace. It may be difficult for them to identify and report inappropriate behavior due to their inexperience, or fears that they will be labeled as a complainer early in their career. It’s critical your interns know they have the same protections as regular employees. Be sure they are aware of your company’s policies, and who they can raise an issue to without fear of reprisal.

Quick Quiz

  1. You are a sole practitioner and have five clients. You contact the local university’s public relations department and agree to hire two interns over the summer. While the internships are unpaid, the students will get credit. Is this practice unethical?
  2. The answer is no, the practice is not unethical as long as the interns are working under close supervision, doing more than menial clerical work and aren’t displacing a regular employee. If you are charging a client for the work they are doing, then they should be paid.

Thinking through these ethical considerations can help ensure the internship experience is beneficial to everyone. If you have questions about the ethical use of interns, feel free to reach out to me.

Kerry Francis, APR is the Ethics Officer for PRSA Central Ohio. You can reach Kerry at [email protected].

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