Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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July 14, 2009

The ethical implications raised by social media: Challenges that all PR and communication professionals are presently facing

To tweet / update Facebook status / add a new blog post / comment on a YouTube video or not for a news story or campaign- that is the question that public relations, business, and even journalists have to ask themselves when they are writing online.  Whether it is on their professional blog for their corporation or to share information about an upcoming event on Twitter for their followers, to even updating their status on their Facebook account. Journalists are definitely using social media to not only share stories with their audiences (ex. Twitter), but they are creating new social networks to find sources for their stories like Sourceables.com.


Working it Out Comic, May 2009 (from GoComics)

It seems that business and communication professionals are living and breathing social media, but where are the lines drawn?  Are there times where what we see online should stay online – and not appear on the front page of a web site?

These are just some of the questions that were recently raised by an article written by Dr. Jane Marcellus from Middle Tennessee State University, which appeared on the AEJMC web site.  It raises all of these issues – from what are the ethical implications on reporting a story on these social media sites that may just be “rumors” to insights into the issue of public persona and privacy issues.  For example, to quickly it bring back to the new social networking site for journalists to find sources for their stories, features, etc (Sourceables) – what are the ethical issues that could arise?  What about the privacy issues of the source?  These are all interesting questions to ask – and what we are currently seeing is the dramatic advancement of technology is definitely making people acting before they stop and really think about their actions and how it is going to impact people.

For me, there are several issues to address.  I believe that people need to recognize that what they post online – whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, their own personal web site and blog, etc. – is open and can be viewed by the public.  I find it fascinating that there are those out there that believe that these sites can be “private.”  Yes, they can be private to a certain degree and you can attempt to try to control who sees your information – but it takes a lot of energy and time to do so effectively.  Plus – if people recognize that social media is just not only a new form of technology that is being used in communication and business practices – but it is also a science, and we have to make sure that we understand it fully and know how to properly use it both in our professional and personal lives.

I personally have all of these various types of social media outlets – some for the last couple of months (Twitter) to years (web site and blog) – and I know that people all around the world can see what I write and discuss – and it all contributes to who I am and my personal reputation.  It is hard to predict and be aware of what others may do with this information – and people can’t control whether or not others are going to act ethically.

The important thing is that you practice good ethical behavior and that you are aware of the challenges and risks about posting and being present on social media – and be proactive in your thinking in terms of managing your reputation.  Being aware of the latest technologies and how people are using them is key.  Plus, as I have written on in several posts, it all starts with the person and their ethical behavior – and being online is not going to change that.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

Karen

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