PRSA defines disclosure as: the intentional release of information to facilitate transparency, openness, access, and accountability.

Alaska has lots of big issues to debate – the size and scope of government, taxation, the environment, health care, crime, economic development, and more. But as I noted in my January column, we’re a small state with a small population and sometimes it feels like everyone has an opinion about everything. When we’re advising leaders or clients who want to communicate through op-eds (an “opinion editorial” published in print or online in newspapers, magazines and on blogs), PRSA practitioners in Alaska may face these challenges:

 

You work for one side of a high-profile ballot measure. Think about:

  • How to choose a name for the organization that does not confuse citizens
  • How to solicit op-eds from opinion leaders that truly reflect the opinion of the writer
  • Whether or not the required campaign disclosures provide enough transparency about the individuals and organizations financing the campaign
  • Whether you should you advocate for more transparency, and what you will do if your client disagrees

You are working on a local issue that gets the attention of a national advocacy organization. Think about:

  • Whether or not to submit their boilerplate op-ed to your local publications
  • How to disclose your relationship with the national organization
  • How best to illustrate the national position with local information

You’re responding to an op-ed that your organization disagrees with. Think about:

  • How to choose and cite sources of facts without “cherry-picking” the data
  • How to make sure you are not exaggerating or misrepresenting your opponent’s position
  • How to challenge the conclusions in a way that informs readers rather than a “he said, she said”

Once again, there are policies, regulations and laws that govern disclosure, including newspaper op-ed policies, campaign finance law and required financial disclosures for government officials. PR professionals must decide if compliance with the law alone meets our profession’s standards for disclosure. When you write disclosure at the end of the op-ed, does it tell the full story of the writer’s personal, professional or financial interest in the issue?

You can link to PRSA’s Ethical Standards Advisory (ESA) on Disclosure here.  http://www.prsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ESA-Disclosure.pdf

Have you had any of these experiences? How did you handle them? Would you handle them differently now? Share your thoughts, and I will (anonymously) use them in a future column. I’m also available for confidential advice if you want to talk through the ethical implications of an action – or inaction – you are considering. Reach out at blythe@blythecampbell.com.