Unless your small business has someone on staff to handle public relations, you might not know what ethical and legal standards you should expect from the public relations professional or agency you hire. The Public Relations Society of America established a PRSA Code of Ethics for its members, setting an industry standard for professional conduct. Government regulations that protect your company and the public’s interest
also keep PR practices in check. Sponsored Link
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Ethics The PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards wrote its code of ethics. The organization’s members are expected to communicate honestly and accu rately and avoid conflicts of interest. They’re also expected to protect confidential information,
promote positive competition among PR professionals and report unethical behavior to authorities. The code requires PR people to act in your best interest as their client or employer. They must safeguard confidential information about your company, protect your company and employees’ privacy rights and state accurately what PR can do for
Advertising The Federal Trade Commission regulates the advertising industry. Ads and news about products and services must not mislead or deceive the public, and PR professionals must see that content is accurate and substantiated. Reports on surveys and product tests should present adequate details about the research and how the results are determined. Also, celebrities who endorse products must actually use them.
Defamation Defamation is a public act or statement that deliberately harms people and their reputations. A PR person who uses words, photographs, graphics or symbols that
defame someone could be sued for libel. If the PR person works for you, your company could be liable, as well.
Privacy PR professionals have a duty to uphold people’s right to privacy, especially in media or
company interviews they arrange. The law gives people the right to be left alone or to withhold information about themselves that could trigger public criticism. PR people must determine whether the information withheld is offensive or concerns the public before pressing interviews. The rule applies to staff interviews for employee newsletters as well as guest interviews for publications, websites and television broadcasts.
Copyright Writers, photographers and artists copyright their work to protect it from unauthorized use. The l aw allows what it calls “fair use” of copyrighted material for n ews reporting, critiquing, commenting, research and teaching. The rule allows PR people to use others’
works in ads, news articles, annual reports or promotional activities as long as they credit the originator.
Trademark The name, tag line or graphic symbol you use to distinguish your company from its competitors is your trademark. PR should protect its use when promoting your product or service. It must see that no person or business is using your trademark as its own, and it should monitor its use by the media. PR also should ensure that your trademark isn’t altered or distorted in print. Sponsored Links
Legal Issues in Public Relations Public relations practitioners should be aware of various legal issues that can affect their professional practice. While practitioners may not be expected to be legal experters, they should have a working knowledge of the issues.
Updated Summer 2011 as a supplement to Prof. Smith's textbooks, Strategic Planning for Public Relations and Becoming a Public Relations Writer , (Routledge/Taylor and Francis).
Legal Principles v/v Public Relations Practice - The law always trumps the desires and directives of clients and organizations . - Communication between public relations counsel and clients is confidential but not privileged . - Federal law prevents governmental agencies from spending money on advertising or promotion but allows public education and public information. - Stock-issuing companies must provide timely and accurate information. - Law addresses issues of corporate speech, including what companies may and may not say or advocate. - Some states have laws protecting companies for expressing concern in situations involving injury or death by employees or customers.
Public relations practitioners deal with various legel issues Defamation Negative, harmful language Identification of person (not group) Publication/communication to third party Fault (negligance for a private person; malice for a public official/public figure) Harm (extent of injury, loss, problems - basis of financial settlement) Defenses: Substantial/provable truth, privilege, fair comment & criticism Additional technical defenses: Statute of limitations, consent, broadcast by political candidate
Privacy Private facts (revealing intimate info w/o legitimate public concern) Intrusion (gathering information secretly) Misappropriation (commercial use of name/image) Defenses: Explicit permission, implicit permission
Copyright Legal designation of ownership for original creation Registered: Copyright notice (c) International: 162 signer countries (Berne Convention) Fair Use of Copyrighted Material: - Nonprofit or noncommercial purposes (education, satire, research...thumbnail photos) - Comment for reviews & excerpts - Research (via libraries) Original works owned by author/artist Works for hire owned by organization that pays uthor/artist (salary or commission)
Trademark Common trademark Registered trademark Both used by companies to protest a product and to distinguish it from competitors Protection for names, logos, slogans, dolls, mascots, faces/voices Trade dress: packaging, color (Owens Corning pink insulation), shape (Peperidge Farm Goldfish) The tradmark symbol is affixed to the product itself Writing about trademark: capitalize and use "brand" Service Mark Similar to trademark, protects symbols/words associated with services & programs rather than products Service mark with (sm) symbol is presented via public relations, advertising, or marketing vehicles Examples of service marks: Army: "Be All that You Can Be"
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