Category Archives: Ethics

Hunters Take Over PETA

By Hope Salyer

As public relations practitioners we are all familiar with crisis communication, backlash to campaigns and statements taken out of context. It is our job to plan ahead before launching a campaign. We have to ask ourselves, “What could possibly go wrong with this campaign? Is there anything in this campaign, graphics, promotional materials, planned statements, campaign slogans, etc. that could be considered offensive?”

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, we have to scratch what we were planning and come up with something new that won’t fall under one of those statements. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to know how things from a campaign will play out, and we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis just like PETA has found itself in recently.

PETA launched its “Shoot Selfies, Not Animals” campaign on Facebook, and very quickly hunters began to troll the campaign. The original idea was simple. With hunting season quickly approaching, PETA wanted the public to focus on taking selfies instead of posting photos of the animals they have killed during hunting season.

What they didn’t take into consideration? The massive amounts of hunters against PETA.


Photo Credit: Facebook

Within a day, Facebook began blowing up with hunters posting photos of their most recent hunting kills with PETA’s filter. The words “Shoot Selfies, Not Animals” layered over photos of dead deer, turkeys, etc. filled my Facebook newsfeed, much like the one above, and have continued to show up on my feed ever since.

Even with the massive amounts of hunters taking over the filter, PETA is looking on the bright side of the matter. PETA released a statement from Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman saying, “PETA owes a big thank-you to the would-be trolls who are spreading our message of compassion.”

Sometimes the best way to deal with a crisis is to look at it differently. While many hunters have changed the original idea for the photo filter, the campaign has reached a larger audience than it might have otherwise been able to. According to PETA, the campaign filter has been used over 250,000 times and is currently the most popular filter on Facebook.
While it might not have turned out the way PETA had planned, the campaign was still a success. It’s not always possible to think of every way a campaign can possibly go wrong, but it is our job to be able to learn from it, grow and finish the campaign with success.

PETA’s original tactics for spreading awareness of PETA’s message might not have worked out the way they planned, but the overall outcome was achieved. More people are aware of PETA’s message than they were before the photo filter was launched.

Do you agree that this campaign ended up being a success? If you were PETA would you have reacted differently to the backlash? Let me know in the comments below.

Hope Salyer is a senior public relations major and journalism and communication double minor. Hope is serving as the Vice President of Professional Development and Special Events and Programming of EMU PRSSA. This is Hope’s second year serving for the PRSSA E-Board. A Michigan native, she hopes to start her career working for an agency or local nonprofit in Michigan. Her dream is to become the public relations coordinator for the Detroit Tigers. Contact Hope on Twitter @hsalyer01 or by email



Just do the right thing

By: Nikki Mikolon


Photo created by Nikki Mikolon using Canva

Ethics is discussed every day whether it is specified as “ethics.” Plain and simple, ethics is just doing the right thing, and most importantly, doing the right thing when no one is looking.

Public relations practitioners have been condemned for years for being “spin doctors.” For as long as practitioners have been called this, they have been trying to break the stigma.

According to Scott M. Cutlip and Glen M. Broom, the authors of Effective Public Relations, PR is defined as, “The management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its successes and failures depends.”

Basically, it is a PR practitioner’s job to communicate the goals, successes and failures of the company that he or she represents to the public. That means telling the truth! There is nothing worse than lying to your audience or consumers.

For example, Samsung recently recalled their Galaxy Note 7 phones because they were exploding from the new lithium batteries in the phone. Instead of trying to lie or worm their way out of giving customers a new phone or dealing with the phones on their own, Samsung simply fessed up to what was happening.

Samsung realized they had produced something that was not functioning in the way they wanted it to or how they designed it to be. The best thing to do in this situation was exactly what Samsung did. They admitted that there was a problem and they came up with a solution.

For all of its customers who had purchased the recalled Galaxy Note 7, Samsung allowed retailers that sold the phones to their customers to provide them with replacements for the recalled phones, while Samsung developed a solution.

Samsung’s decision to recall their phones and find the right solution to their mistake was the ethical thing to do.

Ethical business behaviors lead to customer loyalty. Ultimately, businesses are searching for customers along with customer loyalty. Telling the truth and behaving ethically can help companies do this.

In the end, when you run into gray areas and don’t know what to do, always remember—just do the right thing.

Nikki Mikolon is a senior majoring in public relations and minoring in marketing. As a Detroit native, she hopes to spend her beginning years working for the city and being a part of its renaissance. Connect with Nikki on Twitter @nikkimikolon.

Ethics speaker tomorrow!

EMU PRSSA will have a speaker, Linda Hagan, at tomorrow night’s meeting to discuss ethics. The meeting will run from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and will be held in SC 304.

Linda Hagan

Linda Hagan

Linda Hagan, Ph.D., serves as the Chair of the Business Communications Department at Walsh College in Troy, Michigan. She is also a full-time professor at Walsh College and teaches graduate courses in strategic and leadership communication, management communications, public relations strategies, and undergraduate courses in business communications. In addition, she serves as the faculty advisor for the Walsh College MBA Association.

Hagan regularly conducts seminars and workshops on leadership communication to professional associations and community groups. She has published articles focusing on public relations practice and international codes of ethics for PR practitioners.

She is accredited in Public Relations by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and is an active member of the PRSA’s Detroit Chapter and a member of the Academy of Management and Toastmasters. She is a former Board of Directors member of the PRSA Detroit Chapter and chapter delegate at the international PRSA conferences. She currently is the co-chair of the PRSA Detroit Ethics Committee and member of the Senior Council.


Learning about ethics in a workshop with Joan Witte

On Tuesday, EMU PRSSA hosted a mini Ethics Summit in celebration of PRSA’s Ethics Month.

During our meeting, Joan Witte, the Detroit PRSA ethics chair, talked to our members about what ethics is and how it applies to our careers. She also provided some examples about recent ethical failures made by companies.

Joan Witte talks ethics with EMU PRSSA

Joan Witte talks ethics with EMU PRSSA

As future PR professionals, it was great to have the opportunity to learn from Witte. She even gave us real life scenarios and quizzed on what was and wasn’t ethical – which was a great learning experience.

Thank you so much to Joan for presenting this great workshop to our students. We learned a lot and had so much fun!

If you missed the meeting, or you just want to relive the excitement, you can see Joan’s PowerPoint from the presentation below.

The value of taking ethics seriously in your career

The month of September is Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)’s Ethics Month, which makes it a good time to review some traits necessary to help set the standard for the public relations profession.

“If you don’t have integrity, you have nothing,” said Henry Kravis, a businessman with a net worth of more than $4.5 billion. “You can’t buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing.”

Source: PRSA

Source: PRSA

The PRSA Code of Ethics highlights some key points to follow and take to heart:

  • Advocacy
  • Honesty
  • Expertise
  • Independence
  • Loyalty
  • Fairness

Ethics need to be intertwined into the threads of every day PR life because every aspect of our jobs can spring an on the spot ethical dilemma.

The book “Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques” gives advice on how to handle a scenario when even the relatively simple task of cropping and altering a photo can become a dilemma.

The book said: “You have the professional responsibility to honor the original photographer’s work and not make alterations that would violate the integrity of the original photo.”

Everyday life requires ethical decisions and dilemmas. In PR, it is a bit more of an issue because the opportunity to influence people’s decisions is always prevalent.

For example, a PR spokesperson for a company selling portable deep fryers could receive exemplary remarks from nine out of ten chefs that completed a trial run with the cooking contraption. But, if the chef complained his cooker blew up and injured hungry bystanders that were just waiting on fresh jalapeno poppers, it could be seen as a bit misleading.

Although it would be most advantageous to run a press release about the positive feedback, the PR practitioner could potentially put consumers at risk if they did not disclose all the research. It is not a business decision anymore, but an ethical one. (Also, you would probably need a good lawyer for the lawsuits in this particular case as well…)

It has been proven time and time again that misleading the public is never going to pan out for anyone in the long run. If the PRSA Code of Ethics is followed, your professional and personal ethics should never run into a problem for you or anyone else hoping to keep solid credibility in the PR profession.

You can read more about ethics in PR and read the Code of Ethics in its entirety on the PRSA website.

And, while you’re enjoying learning about ethics and PRSA, join us tomorrow, Spet. 17, at 5:30 p.m. in SC 301 for a mini Ethics Summit with the PRSA Detroit Ethics Chair, Joan Witte.

Ken Bowen
Vice President of Professional Development