April 2020 SCPRSA Newsletter Print

Ethics, PR and the Coronavirus

By Andrea Simrell, SCPRSA Ethics Chair

The current COVID-19 pandemic has led PR practitioners to focus on a variety of topics — connecting with teams remotely, opportunities to learn a new skill, and the need for increased communication and possibly action, depending on your industry.

But has it made you think more about ethics?

The PRSA Member Statement of Professional Values covers the core values of PRSA members and the PR profession. These values also provide the foundation for the Member Code of Ethics.

Two of these values — expertise and honesty — should be at the forefront as PR practitioners communicate with publics, take action to address immediate needs and position organizations for an unknown future.

Expertise reinforces PR’s role in acquiring and responsibly using specialized knowledge and experience. Our unique position allows us to build relationships by establishing credibility and mutual understanding. In times of crisis, especially when the situation is constantly in flux, it is imperative that PR practitioners rely on reputable resources for information and communicate clearly. 

  1. Garland Stansell, APR, PRSA’s 2020 chair, recently commented:

A lack of details and the dread of the unknown can be concerning and upsetting for your audience during a virus-related crisis such as this. It’s important to help them feel less anxious and more informed. Don’t employ any tactics that fuel hysteria, and be mindful in all communications, avoiding subjective adjectives and alarming language. Stick to the facts and consult only trusted sources such as the CDC, the National Institutes of Health or the World Health Organization.

Honesty is also a key ethical consideration. In order to advance the profession, PR practitioners need to adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth. This is important both as we advance the interests of those we represent and when communicating with publics. Honesty builds trust, and trust builds loyalty, which is critical when navigating a crisis. Being proactive and sincere will go a long way.

Consumers are paying attention to how organizations handle this crisis. The findings from the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 Special Report on Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic show the importance of brands doing the “right thing,” because survey participants are already judging brand reactions.

A key takeaway from the survey is that brands should ensure their coronavirus-related messaging is “factual and compassionate.”

Communicating your organization’s efforts to serve your employees, customers, constituents and communities is welcomed.

The survey responses show that nearly nine in 10 respondents feel that brands should not only tackle social struggles in light of the coronavirus outbreak, but also act accordingly to safeguard the financial security of their employees and suppliers.

On the flip side, taking advantage of the situation, looking opportunistic or ignoring the needs of your publics will negatively impact your brand’s perception.

According to the survey, 69% of U.S. respondents said that, in the future, they will absolutely not choose brands they see placing profits before people during the pandemic.

No matter how this crisis impacts your organization, PR practitioners can step up to ensure ethical practices are being followed. Providing honest communication rooted in research and insights from subject matter experts will demonstrate your desire to serve your publics ethically and help you come out of this crisis with relationships intact.


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Diversity and Inclusion in Public Relations

By Ore Oluwole, SCPRSA Diversity and Inclusion Officer

We’ve all heard the words: Diversity and Inclusion. Most commonly shortened as D&I. When these words are lumped together, they are often assumed to be the same thing but that is just not the case.

So how does one define diversity and inclusion in a way that’s easy to comprehend? Distinguished diversity advocate, Verna Meyer, boils down the difference between the two by stating, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

When it comes to the workforce, diversity means representation, but it has to be connected with inclusion which is the active participation and empowerment of all groups of people. In public relations, this is crucial because as professionals we’re also working with fellow communicators, marketers, advertisers, designers, writers, social media specialists, and other colleagues as a collective unit towards a common goal.

As we work with different groups of people, diversity coupled with inclusion provides the opportunity to create an advantageous group of talent, retain individuals, and increase employee engagement.

As public relations professionals, it’s important to not just use diversity and inclusion to check off certain boxes but apply it as a holistic approach to the way we operate.

Where can you start to get ideas of implementation? The PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit is one resource to give PRSA members with the tools to help manage those initiatives while enhancing professional development so that the diversity of members reflects and embraces the diversity of the profession. This toolkit combines the success of different chapters to a strategic focus on PRSA’s diversity and inclusion program.

Throughout the year, we will explore different aspects of diversity and inclusion in public relations and discuss various applications to make us all better practitioners.


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President-elect, Pam Flasch shares how she stays connected with 190 employees during the COVID-19 pandemic-

To help our 190 employees stay connected while we navigate our current work structure, we are archiving personal and professional contributions/observations/projects and WHATEVER as an archive, which we are rolling out each week in our company newsletter. We look forward to publishing this online, and to using what we learn to create a useful Pandemic Crisis Communications Plan for Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority. I’d love to see what other folks are doing! Pam


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