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Ethics in public relations

Ethical dilemmas faced in public relations

Every day, public relations practitioners face ethical dilemmas from their clients, the media and/or coworkers. Knowing how to handle these ethical issues with poise and grace elevates a PR practitioner’s professionalism and expertise. In my area of interest, media relations, the ability to quickly identify and solve ethical issues is vital to succeed in public relations.

Got ethics ?

Understanding ethical guidelines is very important in public relations


In media relations, a public relations professional works with media outlets to inform the public about an organization’s mission, policies and practices. However, a media relations specialist also handles his or her client’s crisis communication by erasing any negativity surrounding the client through mass media. An example of this may occur if the client deceived the public about his or her organization or product, and the PR specialist must now work with the media to improve his or her client’s image.

Deception may also occur when a reporter uses undercover tactics to reveal personal or corporate information. A reporter should only use deception if there is no other alternative to getting the information, no innocent people are put at risk and the information has overriding public importance (Rich, 310).


In media relations, public relations professionals may be tempted to give news outlets gifts to ensure their client’s stories are printed or broadcasted. Likewise, media outlets may also give a PR professional gifts to ensure that he or she will exclusively bring stories to that particular station or publication before others. According to PRSA ethics code, gifting is unethical because “we must not allow coverage to be bought or influenced by favors” (Bowles, 155).


PR professionals should not participate in gift exchanges with clients and/or media to avoid unethical practices

Conflicts of Interest

It is important that a PR practitioner does not have conflicting viewpoints or opinions with the organization he or she represents. Conflicts of interest can affect the quality of work produced by the PR professional. For example, if a media relations specialist has liberal political views and works for a conservative politician, he or she may not promote his or her client’s campaigns to decrease that politician’s success (Bowles, 157).


Design the newsletter for your readers!

Design can make or break a newsletter 

Everyday, we see newspapers, magazines, billboards and advertising signs. Each publication uses a different design and layout specialized for its audience, hoping to capture readers’ attention.

Specifically, a newsletter must be visually appealing, and easy to read to communicate with readers. A newsletter with an organized layout design will aid in communication by moving readers through the page with ease, emphasizing important stories. A well-designed newsletter has the ability to effortlessly convey important and interesting information to readers, and capture readers’ interest in a publication.

Many aspects contribute to a successful newsletter's layout and design

Many aspects contribute to a successful newsletter’s layout and design

Balance baby!

A key aspect to the design of a newsletter is balance. Balance can be achieved through matching identical elements, such as copy, headlines, photos and colors, on the right side of the page to the left side. This is called formal balance. Due to its rigid structure, copy editors have to prioritize form over content, making formal balance unfavorable. Instead, copy editors tend to favor informal balance, which is achieved by matching weights of the elements on the page (Bowles, 2011). Additionally, contrast, proportion and unity must also be considered.

Keep it simple

Because many newsletters have limited space, it is easy for stories to blend together. However, a good layout and design can prevent any confusion among readers. Paul Swift, editor of The Newsletter on Newsletters says, “The soul of newsletters-in both design and editorial content- is simplicity.” Using hairline borders and white space around stories can help keep readers organized while reading.

newsletter layouts

Copy editors have many options to chose from to achieve organization and balance in their newsletters

Layout and design for my newsletter

My newsletter will pertain to the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band, and target current and prospective members of the band. To achieve a cohesive, easy to read newsletter, I will design my newsletter keeping balance, contrast, proportion and unity in mind.

From our lecture on InDesign, I learned that the human eye is attracted to visuals. So, to keep my reader interested in reading the whole page, I will alternate graphics from left to right, starting from the top of the page, and ending at the bottom.

I will use red and yellow colors to match the university’s theme, and to also attract the reader’s eye to certain words or headlines I want to emphasize. Color adds life to the newsletter, and can excite and attract readers to certain sections. The key is to appropriately and tastefully use color, with out cluttering the design.


Dreaming Big!


69% of Americans get their news from a smart phone (including me!)

69% of Americans get their news from a smart phone (including me!)

Going digital and getting social

What is the first thing I do when I wake up? Check my Facebook and Twitter feed for the most recent news. With a simple tap on my iPhone screen, I have hundreds of news outlets at my fingertips.

News distribution has drastically changed with advancements in technology, and the invention of social media. The HP New Media exhibit in the Newseum, located in Washington, D.C., showcases social media’s prominence in our daily lives.

Welcome sign to HP New Media Gallery (Everything was digital, and most screens were interactive too!)

Welcome sign to HP New Media Gallery (Everything was digital, and most screens were interactive too!)

The New Media exhibit interacts with museumgoers, allowing visitors to check-in and upload a photo of themselves to the New Media screen, play a hands free game about recent trends in digital media and role-play as copy editor by formatting headlines for the front page news. However, I was most fascinated by the Newseum’s real-time Twitter feed on display in the middle of the exhibit. I was able to see all trending topics and mentions made at the Newseum as they occurred.

The New Media exhibit demonstrates that digital and social media are the future for journalism.

My Future

As a little girl, I was obsessed with popular culture, Hollywood and celebrities, and dreamed to work for E! Entertainment News. I left the New Media gallery feeling inspired, and knew I wanted to work with social and

This image appeared inside the exhibit

This image appeared inside the exhibit

digital media in my future. Today, my ultimate dream job would be the Social Media Correspondent for E! News.

As Social Media Correspondent for E!, I would manage their social media pages such as Twitter and Facebook. Because social media allows news to be two-way and interactive, I would aim to interact with

I dream to work at E!

I dream to work at E!

celebrities via Twitter and friends and followers on behalf of E! to grow and promote their company.

This dream job combines my passion for entertainment news, interacting with others and using social media. Digital and social media are the future for journalism, and I am the future Social Media Correspondent at E!



Social media breaks news to the public

Social media breaks news to the public

View of the Capitol from the Newseum with Caroline Niski (left)

View of the Capitol from the Newseum with Caroline Niski (left)


Copy editor and example

Importance of a copy editor

In today’s society of news, where the media constantly breaks stories via Internet and social media, the copy editor has a tremendous responsibility to his or her organization. The most reputable and reliable news sources have a strong team of editors, which enhance the quality of each story.

Role of a copy editor

“Copy editors are key bridges between information gatherers and information consumers and . . . perform all the traditional copy editing tasks plus some duties” (Bowles). A copy editor improves stories by making dull writing interesting and precise, corrects grammar, spelling and punctuation, judges news value, corrects facts, protects and enhances the publication’s reputation and image and designs page layouts.

Characteristics of a good copy editor

The best copy editors share characteristics and personality traits that allow them to publish top quality stories. These characteristics include: confidence, objectivity, awareness, intelligence, questioning nature, ability to write and sense of humor. Another important characteristic that a copy editor must have is leadership. The writers, reporters and anchors take direction from the copy editor, so it is important that he or she lets a good example, and has expectations.

Real life application

This past summer, Princess Kate Middleton was photographed sunbathing topless in France. Many magazines published this story, and also showed pictures of Kate topless.

The copy editor had to evaluate the news worthiness of this story. Was it timely, relevant, unusual, prominent or appeal to human interest? Many copy editors deemed this story news worthy, and published it.

Due to the scandalous nature of this story, the copy editor had to have confidence in his or her decision to publish this story, and a keen awareness of the effect this story would have on the royal family.

In this example, the copy editor had to protect his or her publication’s reputation and image, by deciding whether to show topless photos of Kate. In many cases, such as E! News, the copy editor chose not to publish these scandalous photos to conserve the reputation of their organization, and to remain on good terms with the royal family.

kate middleton


SEO: Diversity in public relations

Diversity is an important aspect in public relations. The public relations practitioner must understand the role of diversity, and maintain sensitivity toward others from a multicultural background.

Understanding diversity and multiculturalism in public relations

Throughout their career, public relations practitioners will work with individuals from different backgrounds. They will need accept and understand how to work people of diverse backgrounds to maximize their success in public relations.

Diversity defined

Merriam-Webster defines diversity as “the inclusion of different types of people in a group or organization.” This includes people of different genders, ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds.

With today’s growing minority population, having skills in diversity and multiculturalism greatly benefits those in the public relations industry.

What diversity means to my career

Currently, I aspire to work with Strathmore Center for the Arts in their marketing and communication department. At Strathmore, performers from different backgrounds showcase their talents through music, dance and art.

For example, many African American performers play jazz music for their audience. Strathmore also hosts Latin American performers specializing in Latin music. For Strathmore, diversity is a key element to their performances and their educational programs for young children.

Building diversity

To build diversity in an organization, the organization must go to the community or bring the community to their organization.

For example, to increase their audiences’ diversity, Strathmore could target schools with high diversity and multicultural students and host a field trip for these students. The students could come to Strathmore, tour their facilities and watch a performance.

 diverse kids

To increase diversity in their audiences, Strathmore could also bring performances to multicultural communities or schools. This would expose diverse communities to other types of fine arts performances not commonly found in their own community.

Readability Statistics


Word Count: 290

WPS: 15.8

SPP: 1.9

Passive: 0%

Grade Level: 12

SEO character count: 32

Frequency of key words:

  • Diversity- used 10 times
  • Community- used seven times
  • Background- used five times
  • Multicultural- used four times

Social Media Strategy for Job/Career

SEO head: Innovative social media for Strathmore

Social media has become a major outlet for communication in today’s society. To maximize success, companies should engage in new forms of social media to interact and stay relevant with their audiences.

Social media suggestions for Strathmore

For Strathmore Center for the Arts, connecting with members in their community about upcoming performances, events and lectures ensures their organization’s success. Without community interest and involvement, Strathmore would struggle to sell tickets to events, and maintain funds needed to run their programs and facilities.

Currently, Strathmore uses social media such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with their audience. These mainstream social media tools allow fast and easy interaction with readers. However, alternative social media resources, such as Klout, HootSuite and Cinemogram, will improve Strathmore’s online branding presence.


Klout  measures one’s social media influence based on the ability to drive action on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and/or LinkedIn. It gives feedback on a scale of 1-100. The greater one’s ability to drive conversations and inspire social actions such as likes, shares, and retweets, the higher one’s score will be.


President Barack Obama has a high influence with a score of 99, while the average person has a score around 50

Strathmore can use Klout to measure how much activity they generate on their social media accounts. From Klout’s score and analysis, Strathmore will understand where they excel in connecting with users on social media, and areas where they can improve.


HootSuite is a social media management system that would allow Strathmore to manage their many social media accounts from a single dashboard. From this dashboard, Strathmore can update their tweets, statuses, blogs and other social media in an efficient and easy manner. HootSuite brings all social media accounts into one, allowing Strathmore to control their social media activity from a single site.


Cinemagram allows users to quickly animate photographs, bringing a still image to life. Cinemagram loops a few seconds of video recording in a still picture to bring motion to the image. This is a great way to add excitement to any website or homepage, and capture the viewer’s attention. Strathmore could use Cinemagram to show musicians playing instruments during a featured concert, or children engaging in an educational activity.



SEO character count: 38

Word Count: 318

SPP: 2.7

WPS: 18.4

Passive: 0%

Grade level: 12

Four key words: Social (used 8 times), Media (used 8 times), Strathmore (used 6 times) Connect/ing (used three times)

Wall Street Journal Formula

To follow the Wall Street Journal formula, I began with a soft anecdotal lead, focusing on Donald Kramer. This lead focuses on why this article is important. The body of my article is arranged topically, according to different sections of Dr. Kramer’s life. I provide backup information in the body that support my lead and nut graph.The ending coems full cirlce by using a circle kicker that references the begining of my article.

Coaching Tips Followed:

  • Check social media (in my case, Facebook) for background
  • Plan an order for your story; consider organizing it by topics or time frames (I organized my story chronologically)


    Goal– Dr. Kramer’s original goal was to become an oncologist, however he changed this goal to become an anesthesiologist, and to eventually start his own healthcare company and earn his MBA degree

    Obstacles– Dr. Kramer’s father died when he was 14 years old, forcing him and his family to survive off of social security welfare.

    Achievements– Graduated from medical school, had residencies at Stanford and Harvard, became an anesthesiologitst, opened his own healthcare company (NorthStar), earned his MBA degree, took his healthcare company public

    Logistics– Went to a medical program his junior year that inspired him to become a doctor, his mentor assumed a fatherly figure and advised him on decisions

    Tips from Alan Richman and Julie Sullivan

    1. Ask friends and family of interview subject about questions to avoid or questions to ask

    2. Ask the interviewee a question he/she will like

    3. Everybody has a good story to tell

    How Interviews were conducted 

    To conduct this interview, I called Dr. Kramer and asked if he would help me with this assignment and agree to an interview. He said yes, and we had our first interview then. I then sent him follow up questions via email a few days later.

    Research/listen/note-taking/interview techniques used

    – Check the internet for information about your topic

    – Check the credibility of websites before you use information from them

    – Mark or highlight important quotes or facts you plan to use in the story

    – Ask follow up questions

    Ideas Generated for Storyboard 

    During the writing and reporting process ideas I thought of for my storyboard include: a picture of Dr. Kramer with a caption, a soundbite of our interview, a timeline of his life milestones and accomplishments, a link to NorthStar (his healthcare company), a video of Dr. Kramer explaining how he reached his success, survey question to promote user interaction and bullet list of advice Dr. Kramer has for college-aged students pursuing their dreams