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November 05, 2015

George Johnson, Chair of PRSA’s BEPS, Discusses Ethics with PRWeek

In October The Washington Post reported that PR agency Edelman offered to make a chartiable donation of $175 in exchange for reporters' participation in a media audit for a federal agency, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The goal of the audit was the help the agency refine its messaging. During their outreach, Edelman employees  asked to keep journalists to keep the conversation confidential. As this offer became public, ethical issues were raised.

On October 30, Chris Daniels of PRWeek published an article featuring PRSA's Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) chair George Johnson, APR, Fellow PRSA. Johnson believed that Edelman was looking to simply improve messaging for its clients, not to create a future bias with reporters. Nonetheless, Johnson explained that this tactic did violate a provision of the PRSA Code of Ethics, "protecting and advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information," because the name of the agency was not disclosed. He said, "In this case, while it sounded good to give to charity, what the PR person also needed to do was at least disclose the client."

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