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June 15, 2011

Meeting Social Media's Ethical Challenges — PRSA Op-Ed in The Wall

In an op-ed published June 15, 2011, inThe Wall, the digital media blog of trade publisher Brand Republic, PRSA Chair and CEO Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, advocates for public relations professionals and marketers to more closely scruitinze their social media campaigns to ensure ethical communication standards are met.

Meeting Social Media's Ethical Challenges
By Rosanna M. Fiske, APR
The Wall
Published: June 15, 2011

Recently, I had lunch with the editor of a marketing publication for a discussion about the state of public relations. After exchanging some pleasantries, I asked whether she felt public relations and marketing professionals were comfortable with social media, or at least getting comfortable.

Her response took me by surprise: not even close.

In my day to day life I see many innovative and successful public relations professionals. How could our professions not be comfortable with, nay, mastering social media?

It turns out we may just be fooling ourselves into a false sense of security. The reporter said that on the external business and client side, social media is still largely viewed as the “Wild West” of communications and marketing.

Simply put:  Clients don’t see us as providing clear enough explanation of the value they will derive from our social media expertise.

We see this starting to bubble to the surface in the escalating debate over who “owns” social media. As PR, marketing and advertising professionals go at each other’s throats for this elusive ownership, clients continue to be flustered with our collective inability to express what value our social media management provides.

Furthermore, as lawmakers and the media continue to investigate the inner workings of digital communications and marketing, companies are becoming increasingly concerned with how well we help them navigate the murky waters of digital ethics.

This likely shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. From Facebook to Twitter to Quora, the list of new technologies, channels and other dazzling, real-time communication vehicles goes on and on. But so do the ethical concerns each raises — if we’re not prudent in our efforts to fully understand the implications of using new channels and technologies.

Five years on with social media, it’s time we found a strong foundational sense of what social media ethics will encompass.

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