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August 29, 2011

PRSA: Politicians’ Fake Tweets Are a Breach of PR Ethics — Boston Globe Letter to the Editor

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) addresses the issue of political campaigns using fake Twitter accounts to smear opposition candidates in an Aug. 29, 2011, letter to the editor of The Boston Globe. The letter is in response to a Boston Globe series that exposed disingenuous communications practices by a senior campaign adviser to U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R–Mass.).

Letter to the Editor: False Twitter Account is a Breach of Ethics

Published: Aug. 29, 2011

THE SERIES of Metro articles about the false Twitter account, “Brown adviser confesses he’s Twitter’s CrazyKhazei’’ (Aug. 25) and “Brown disavows Twitter tweaking’’ (Aug. 26), brings to light the responsibilities that communications professionals such as Eric Fehrnstrom bear but all too often choose to ignore.  
Fehrnstrom’s seemingly naïve attempts at what Senator Scott Brown calls “levity’’ do nothing to further the political process. In addition, they are an insult to those of us who, as communications professionals representing clients and employers whose reputations rely in large part on our ability to properly inform the public, strive to conduct our business professionally and ethically.
The Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics has, as its leading principle, that of advocacy, and says, in part: “We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent.’’
Fehrnstrom is not a novice communicator. His irresponsible and unethical communication on behalf of his employer is the opposite of the type of transparent communication the public deserves from its elected officials.
As a public relations professional who teaches the next generation of communicators, I hope Fehrnstrom’s example will be a lesson to many observers of the failing of deceitful communication tactics.
Kirk Hazlett
Milton, Mass.

The writer is a member of the board of the Public Relations Society of America, and an associate professor of communication at Curry College.
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