Posts Tagged ‘ethics


Ethics in the Wild, Wild West (AKA social media)

After Kami Huyse discussed relationship building, Dr. Kaye Sweetser presented the findings from her pilot study on the impact of ethics on relationships.

She quoted some previous literature in organizational use of social media.  One study was by Kelleher and Miller (2006) about  relational strategies through organization blogs.  Kelleher and Miller found that organization blogs more conversational and used a human voice.  Another study she did with Emily Metzgar where they exposed participants to an organization blog and personal blog in a crisis situation.  Their findings revealed that the organization blog was able to defuse a crisis situation.

The study employed an experimental design with two groups exposed to YouTube video series on a campaign featuring BMW cars called Rampenfest.  The manipulation dealt with ethical behavior.  One of the groups were told that BMW was honest about their involvement with the campaign, designated as the truth treatment.  The second group was told that BMW lied about their involvement with the campaign, referred to as the lie treatment.  There was also a control group.

The 80 participants were mostly female with an average age of 21.  On the relationship scale or the “big honkin’ score for relationships,” the range was from 12-60, with the larger the number indicating a higher level of perceived credibility.  The control group had the highest credibility score, followed by the truth group with the lie treatment group significantly lower than the other two.  Basically, lying damaged BMW’s relationships.

There is evidence that mere exposure decreases credibility for an organization.  This pilot study allowed for a better understanding of interconnectedness of ethics and relationships.  A crucial item to learn from the results is that an organization must act ethically in social media campaign.  However, Dr. Sweetser emphasized that new media tactics should be treated as tools, just like other PR endeavors.

Dr. Sweetser said the takeaway message is that organizations must behave ethically, no matter what format they use to communicate their messages.  Don’t risk a good relationship!

Other links associated with her presentations can be found at:


first day at uga connect: social media roundtable

We’ve just wrapped up our first session of the day at UGA Connect, a roundtable discussion of current issues in social media. With so many educators and professionals present with such diverse backgrounds, the conversation stayed lively and interesting! Both the educators and professionals at the roundtable had some great suggestions for organizations looking to engage through social media. One of the most engaging social media discussions brought up by Dr. Karen Russell was “Stupid Things PR People Do,” which is briefly summarized below.

1. Sending Spam

  • Many organizations think “opt-in” e-mail lists are an invitation to send spam; they aren’t.
  • Bloggers usually don’t appreciate being sent press releases (the Chris Anderson incident, of course, was mentioned). Don’t send them press releases unless you have engaged them personally and they have granted you permission.

2. Spam commenting

  • e.g. “I loved your post! Now check out this [irrelevant] link!
  • It’s easy for bloggers to see when comments are not authentic. To appear legitimate, it might be best to e-mail the blogger instead of posting this type of comment.
  • Josh Hallett warned against using the cliche ice breaker “I’ve been following your blog for a long time…”, as many bloggers can easily tell if a person is lying.

3. Bad Pitches

  • Don’t send a pitch that’s not pertinent to the blogger or his/her audience. Period.
  • Hallett argued that there is very little difference in pitching bloggers and traditional media gatekeepers; relationship-building is a must.
  • Besides, social media makes it easier for ticked off bloggers to call out people/organizations using lazy PR tactics.

4. Using irrelevant social media tools

  • Some clients want the “bright, shiny” new social media tools regardless of how relevant it is to their audience. Avoid client pressure, and only use the tools you need.

I had the opportunity to pick Josh Hallett’s brain about some of the current ethical concerns over social media in journalism, and here’s what he had to say.

More UGA Connect attendees with be joining us tonight for dinner at the Foundry Park Inn, and the rest of the Connect team and I are looking forward meeting everyone and getting some great insight on new media from keynote speaker Peter Himler.

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