What Does Ethics Have to do With Anything Anyways?

Pub·lic Re·la·tions

The professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.

  • The state of the relationship between the public and a company or other organization or a famous person. “Companies justify the cost in terms of improved public relations”


Moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.

  • The branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles. “Your so-called newspaper is clearly not burdened by a sense of ethics”

Ethics is all around us and it is surely connected with Public Relations. To break this concept down…

The practice of public relations is about earning credibility ➔ Credibility begins with telling the truth ➔ Public relations, then, must be based on “doing the right thing” ➔ or, in other words, acting ethically.

However, there are some issues that come along when PR professionals put their right to freedom of speech before what is ethically right. What is important for all to consider is that what is ethical, may or may not be legal – as well as what is unethical may or may not be illegal.

An example of an unethical comment made by a PR pro…

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Justine Sacco was a senior public relations chief employed at IAC until she was fired after this tweet she posted on Twitter. Granted everyone has freedom of speech, it is important to think before we speak… or post. Justine Sacco who has plenty of experience in the field of PR, should know better than to post a comment that is so offensive.

“While her account was a personal one, it’s a reminder that on public platforms like Twitter, our actions remain tied to our employers, especially if they’re mentioned in your bio. As head of PR, Sacco’s job was to decide how IAC communicates its message to the world, and likely to look at the public social media of her colleagues to make sure they’re not saying anything that could come back to haunt the company.”

The quote was taken from Forbes article, “Justine Sacco’s Nightmare Before Christmas, Twitter-Version“.

According to an article from The New York Times Magazine, Sacco states…

“To me it was so insane of a comment for anyone to make,” she said. “I thought there was no way that anyone could possibly think it was literal.

Social media can spread like wildfire. The more offensive the content is… the faster it will go around. This tweet may be no worse than countless racist or offensive posts seen on Twitter, but the fact that she had public relation credentials and experience gives IAC every right to do what they did. Although it was Sacco’s personal account, since she was employed with IAC, it made the company look bad which hurts their reputation and the public’s trust.

Do you think it was right for IAC to fire Justine Sacco for her tweet? 


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My name is Jessica and I am a student at Davenport University. I am in the process of completing my bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing and specialty in advertising. As part of our Public Relations Foundations class, we were asked to create a wordpress account to post weekly blogs on topics relating to the class. I hope that you find this information both interesting and useful!

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