PRSA Ethics Minute – June 2016

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June 7, 2016

PRSA has convenient resources to help members ensure they’re following the PRSA Code of Ethics while on the go. One of these resources is the PRSA Ethics Mobile App, which provides you with the Code of Ethics in an easy reference form that can be used as part of your daily practice. Other features of the app include an ethics quiz; ethics-related blog posts and access to PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards.

We encourage you to download the app and take the quiz. As part of our ongoing Ethics on The Go challenge, which you can find on the PRSA Nebraska website, by doing this you could win a gift card for following these simple steps to get acquainted with the app.

Congratulations to our latest winners of the Ethics on the Go Challenge who are: Kathy Broniecki and Shannon Stawniak! We will get your gift cards to you this week, so enjoy some coffee on us!

Another great resource you can find on the app to help refresh your Code of Ethics knowledge are many published Ethics Case Studies.

Today, I am going to highlight one of these Case Studies on one of the ethical use of interns. You can read the full study on or the mobile app.

An increasing issue in our industry is unpaid internships and the ethical implications regarding PR internships as employers value work experience when hiring and job candidates who wish to be competitive willingly accept unpaid positions to gain work experience. With this issue, at least three Code provisions – disclosure of information, free flow of information, and enhancing the profession; along with four professional values – honesty, expertise, advocacy and fairness; are related to this issue. To help you understand this issue, two examples of improper practices include:

  • You are a sole practitioner and have five clients. You contacted a local university’s public relations department and agreed to hire two interns over the summer. While the internships are unpaid, the student will get credit. You charge the clients for the work these interns do.
  • A for-profit company hires unpaid interns to help them get college credit for their graduation requirement. The interns perform work generally done by employees. In lieu of payment, the students receive “opportunities and connections” as compensation.

To ensure we’re following the PRSA Code of Ethics, recommended best practices for unpaid internships are to ensure:

  1. The internship complies with federal and state requirements.
  2. All internships are paid if “real” billable work is accomplished.
  3. If an internship is unpaid, it meets all Department of Labor guidelines.
  4. The ingredients of a successful intern experience are built into the process from the start, which includes:
    • The work is an integral part of the student’s course of study.
    • The student receives experience relevant to a career in PR
    • The student prepares a report of his or her experiences and submits it a faculty supervisor.
    • The intern is supervised by a knowledgeable staff member who provides a productive learning experience.

If you’d like to read the full case study, along with a short discussion guide, the Ethical Use of Interns case study can be found on the website under the Ethics session.

PRSA Nebraska Ethics Minute – April 2016

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The PRSA Nebraska chapter places a high emphasis on assisting all members in increasing your knowledge of the PRSA Code of Ethics through our Monthly Luncheons and other programming.

As you may know, the PRSA Code of Ethics defines how PRSA members carry out our ethical responsibilities through professional values and code provisions.

To help you gain familiarity and professional application of the Code of Ethics, we are challenging all members to the Ethics on the Go Challenge.

This quick challenge is aimed at helping members and nonmembers, learn or brush up on the Code of Ethics in an easy and convenient way by downloading and using the PRSA Ethics App.

For the challenge, you’ll:

  1. Download the PRSA Ethics app in Apple’s App Store or the Google Android Market(1 entry)
  2. Review the Professional Values and Code Provisions.
  3. Take The Ethics Quiz, which is 10 questions. (1 entry)
  4. For a bonus entry (+1 entry), when sending confirmation of the other items, let us know what PRSA Code of Ethics questions you have or any Professional Values or Code Provisions you’d like to see covered at future Luncheons.
  5. Once completed, you’ll send an email to confirming that you downloaded the app and your score on the Ethics Quiz to be entered in the monthly drawing for a gift card. Please note that your score on the Ethics Quiz does not matter when entering the challenge.

Our first winner of the Ethics on the Go challenge is Magdalena Axtell, field marketing manager, J. Herzog & Sons, Inc. – Nebraska Dining – Noodles & Company, who earned herself a gift card to Starbucks!

Congratulations Magdalena!

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PRSA Nebraska Ethics Minute – March 1, 2016

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PRSA Ethics Challenge

PRSA Nebraska Ethics Minute – February 2016

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PRSA has convenient resources to help members ensure they’re following the PRSA Code of Ethics while on the go. One of these resources is the PRSA Ethics Mobile App, which provides you with the PRSA Code of Ethics in an easy reference form that can be used as part of your daily practice.

Other features of the PRSA Ethics app include a communications ethics quiz; an RSS feed for PRSA ethics-related blog posts and email access to PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards.

Another great resource you can find on the app to help refresh your Code of Ethics knowledge are many published Professional Standards Advisories also known as Ethical Standard Advisories, which are timely guidance on emerging ethics issues.

I am going to briefly touch on one of the advisories related to disclosure and transparency in native advertising and sponsored content. You can read more about this Ethical Standards Advisory on or the mobile app.

An increasing issue in our industry is the blurring of lines between editorial/news content and advertising/promotional messaging, which potentially threatens the ability of consumers to develop informed opinions and to make rational decisions. With this, it’s critical that a clear distinction between editorial content and sponsored content be apparent to the consumer.

When posting content, the sponsor of the content should always be clearly identified. However, in some instances, sponsorship is hidden or left off altogether.

At least five Code provisions – disclosure of information, free flow of information, competition, conflicts of interest and enhancing the profession; along with three professional values – honesty, advocacy and fairness; are related to this issue.

The range of improper practices includes:

  • Failure to clearly identify the source or sponsorship of content or advertising.
  • Blending sponsored content or advertising into editorial, news, or entertainment content so as to obscure the identification of the paid or in-kind transactional relationship between the media outlet and a brand/organization.
  • Hiding disclosures in small font size.
  • Intentionally displaying disclosure information at the end of the document or conclusion of the story.

To ensure we’re following the PRSA Code of Ethics, recommended best practices for use of sponsored content are:

  1. Public relations professionals must work to ensure that the sponsorship of news, blog posts, and other social media platforms for advertising is fully disclosed within the context of the content and made consistently clear to readers/viewers/users.
  2. Such disclosures should be clear and appropriate to the medium.
  3. Clear disclosure throughout a paid placement facilitates transparency and is strongly recommended.
  4. In social media, sponsored content should be made transparent within the requirements of the platform.
  5. Public relations professionals can take advantage of the opportunity to promote their client and support media partners through sponsored content advertising while preserving, protecting, and enhancing the media partners’ objectivity and credibility. By clearly and readily disclosing sponsorship to the audience/consumer public relations professionals provide a beneficial service for both their clients and the resources being used.

PRSA Nebraska Ethics Minute – March 2015 by Jeremy Harris Lipschultz

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PRSA Nebraska Ethics Minute: Ethics and Trust
A closer look at some of the most serious media ethics issues of 2014 reveals that trust remains an important foundation. One only needs to consider Brian Williams’ current suspension from NBC News to see that the public expects high standards for accuracy and truth.
The site recently listed 10 top issues last year. Among the items, Rolling Stone’s lapses in reporting a 2012 alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia included ignoring fraternity and university statements to the contrary that were made available prior to publication. While an apology may be uncomfortable for a media organization, this and other recent cases show coming clean about mistakes is good public relations.
This goes to the issue of trust. As notes, trust is earned over a long period of demonstrating character: “We are trusted because of our way of being, not because of our polished exteriors or our expertly crafted communications.” As Omaha’s Warren Buffett likes to remind people: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Others connect trust to integrity, strong and fair relationships, leadership and teamwork. One of my favorite quotes on the Inc. list comes from the late Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”

Why Quality PR Promotes Ethics and Addresses Concerns

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PR News recently reported its five most-read stories from December. Third on the list was an article titled “5 of the worst PR scandals of 2014.”

Matthew Schwartz
@mpsjourno1 wrote that the “year had a robust number of meltdowns, PR debacles and downright embarrassing episodes among some of the globe’s most recognizable brands.”

Unlike our December showcase of amazing public relations at #PRSAGala this list is loaded with crisis communication and missed PR opportunities.

The Sony hacking story featured more of a journalism ethics problem in reporting email contents, as the media company was unable to frame the news from a privacy perspective.  The Ray Rice scandal is mostly a tale about viral video and domestic abuse.  There is no doubt that no amount of PR will overcome real issues facing the NFL.

When Microsoft’s CEO failed to recognize the tech industry has a problem with women and pay, PR came to the rescue with a well-timed backpedal and apology.

GM’s delayed recalls linked to at least 13 deaths turns out to be partially explained by failure of managerial and organizational communication.  No amount of PR can solve a cover-up.

Rounding out the PR News list is the Donald Sterling “fiasco.”  We talked about this at the professional development conference last year.  A surreptitious audio recording leaked to TMZ and an inability to align comments with 21st Century norms spelled doom for the former NBA L.A. Clippers owner.  Again, this story demonstrated more about what not to do.

On the other hand, PRSA remains one of the strongest professional advocates for how to help clients and remain true to ethical principles.  Unfortunately, our industry has a long way to go to overcome its own negative PR about public relations practices.  Our best hope is to remain focused on doing the daily work that produces positive results, informs stakeholders, influences public opinion and even wins awards.

PRSA Nebraska Ethics Minute, August 2014 – Twitter Is No Place For An Argument

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Actor Jason Biggs – best known for roles in American Pie and Orange Is the New Black (also the voice of Leonardo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) demonstrated an important lesson recently on Twitter.

After a jet was reported down in the Ukraine in mid-July, he tweeted: “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?”


Obviously, this was no time for a bad joke re-tweeted nearly 500 times, and his Twitter followers told him in explicit terms. Beyond the profanity, one responded with this question: “You’d laugh if your kids died in a plane crash?”

Biggs compounded the problem by calling people “losers” for being angry, and then matched their profanity. In a final part of his public relations nightmare, Biggs wrote: “You don’t have to think it’s funny, or even be on my twitter page at all.”

Hours later, as news reported that the plane had been shot down, Biggs finally apologized in four tweets:

“1). Hey all- ok, so- I am deleting my previous tweets. People were offended, and that was not my intent. Sorry to those of you that were”

“2). This is obviously a horrible tragedy, and everyone-including myself- is sad and angry about it. Sending positive thoughts to the”

“3). victims and their families. P.S. No one is making me send these tweets- I simply understand that my comments might have come off”

“4). as insensitive and ill-timed. For that, I apologize.” (

The apology was re-tweeted more than 150 times, and was favored  about the same number as the original tweet. Biggs has had a low profile ever since, with only two more tweets in July. It’s a far cry from his more than 5,000 previous tweets to more than 467,000 followers.

MaverickPR asks Nebraska PRSA members to sponsor a YES backpack

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MaverickPR, the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s PRSSA chapter is seeking help from Nebraska PRSA to fill 100 backpacks with clothing and hygiene supplies to Youth Emergency Services (YES), a local nonprofit that serves homeless and at-risk youth.

For only $35, PRSA members or their companies can sponsor a backpack in the “Say YES: Give Back with a Pack” drive that runs throughout the month of November.

The UNO’s PRSSA chapter has purchased 100 backpacks through its own fundraising but needs more assistance to fill them with such items as packages of socks and underwear, gloves or mittens, body wash, soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, tooth brushes and first aid items. Checks should be made out to UNO-PRSSA and mailed in care of
Karen Weber, PRSSA faculty adviser at Room 140, Arts and Sciences Hall, University of Nebraska at Omaha, 6001 Dodge St., Omaha, NE 68182-0112.

For more than 35 years YES has served struggling youth, ages 12 to 21 in Omaha and Council Bluffs, by providing critically needed resources that empower them to become self-sufficient. YES served more than 800 homeless and at-risk youth in 2010-11 alone through shelter and advocacy programs.

Please contact Angela Eastep, PRSSA service director, for more information at

Shoo the Flu – Bailey Lauerman

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Imagine a well-known CEO on a mission to have every child in his community receive a flu shot. For free. In a matter of a month.

Now imagine the community is the populous San Francisco Bay Area, with literally hundreds of thousands of children of all socio-economic class.

So, how do you reach and influence parents to allow their children to receive a free flu shot? And how do you turn them into advocates, spreading the word, so that other parents follow suit? And how do you do it while remaining an anonymous donor?

First things first: find partners with the know-how to make it happen –one that can assist with the logistics of the program, and the other to produce creative, persuasive communication that delivers a credible argument to vaccinate in an approachable and relevant way.

For the logistics part, the donor contacted TotalWellness, a national corporate health and wellness provider, to assist with the implementation of the program. TotalWellness contacted Bailey Lauerman to help spread the word.

To make things even more interesting, Bailey Lauerman had only one week to develop, launch and promote the free flu shot program in a large metropolitan area with an equally large Spanish-speaking population. With no paid advertising and no on-the-ground support.

An area that’s already saturated with messaging in every nook and cranny.

Though it was an unusually tight deadline, Bailey Lauerman had the expertise to develop and execute a killer campaign that reached a fairly large audience through social and PR channels. One that delivered a message of education and entertainment, convincing each and every parent of the benefits of childhood flu vaccinations, while arming them with what they needed to spread the word in a non-preachy way.

In a short amount of time, our very talented and capable team developed:

  • A catchy name, Shoo the Flu, identity, flu characters, stickers and shareable social badges
  • A landing page to serve as the central hub for information that included a map of the Target Pharmacy® locations administering the shots, as well as flu myth busters and frequently asked questions –
  • Facebook and Google+ pages
  • Partnerships with key public schools and non-profits serving children
  • Information distribution channels through local and state health departments
  • Media buzz by pitching timely pieces as a national influenza story was breaking
  • Stories that caught the attention of influential bloggers, including “mommy bloggers” in both the pro- and anti-vaccine camps
  • Posters that were translated to Spanish in order to reach a wider demographic

Then, on the eve of the launch, the anonymous donor decided to be way less anonymous. We needed a communication strategy to attribute this grand community health gesture to Google CEO Larry Page and his wife, Lucy, through their Page Family Foundation. No problem.

The program launched without a hitch on December 1, 2012.

So how did it do? In the first week, Shoo The Flu was covered by some of the area’s most prominent newspapers and TV stations – San Francisco Chronicle; the local NPR affiliate, KQED-FM; Univision 14 KDTV-TV, a Hispanic-speaking television station.

It reached more than 31,000 Facebook users. Daily Shoo The Flu posts were shared on Google+ and Facebook, including one post shared by Larry Page on Google+.

In just a month, 1,500 flu shots were administered –that’s more than 20 times the normal amount of shots.

The campaign was so successful, the Pages decided to extend the free flu shots for another month.

By the end of the second month, a total of 4,865 shots were administered.

The campaign then went to exceed even more expectations by winning Best Social Media Campaign from Ragan’s 2013 PR Daily Awards, along with two honorable mentions for Best Cause-Related Campaign and Best Community Relations Campaign.

You have to admit, that’s some pretty good shooing of the flu.

PRSA Nebraska Awards $2,000 in Scholarships To Students at Nebraska and South Dakota Universities

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PRSA Nebraska, the Nebraska chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), is awarding $500 scholarships to four students at Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chartered affiliate chapters in Nebraska and South Dakota.

The $500 scholarships recipients are:
Kassaundra Hartley, Spalding, Neb., Creighton University
Benjamin Preston, Omaha, Neb., University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Megan Romero, Omaha, Neb., University of Nebraska Omaha
Britni Waller, Lincoln, Neb., University of South Dakota

“We are proud of these talented students who have decided to pursue a career in public relations and communications,” said Kellie Wostrel, APR, president of PRSA Nebraska. “These students have gone above and beyond to demonstrate their commitment to the public relations profession.”

PRSA Nebraska awards $2,000 annually — four $500 scholarships each — to PRSSA students. The students are juniors, seniors or graduate students who attend school full-time and are current members of PRSSA. Students who apply for the scholarship must plan to pursue a career in public relations or communications.  Faculty advisers at each university recommend candidates for approval by the PRSA Nebraska Board of Directors.

“We are fortunate to have strong PRSSA affiliates,” said Wostrel. “The PRSA Nebraska chapter prides itself in engaging our next generation of communicators through professional development and mentoring support. Our PRSSA students have the opportunity to learn more about the profession and network with other Midwest public relations professionals in the field.”

About PRSA Nebraska
PRSA Nebraska is an affiliate of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the nation’s largest community of public relations and communications professionals. More than 185 professionals are members of PRSA Nebraska and represent corporate, agency, nonprofit and government organizations throughout Nebraska. PRSA sets standards of excellence and uphold principles of ethics for the global public relations profession. More information is available at

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