UESTION: After reading Chapter 9 of THINK Public Relations which addresses Ethics and the Law:
Which aspects of law do you believe public relations practitioners need to be most aware of, and why?
Personally I think that practitioners need to be very aware of all aspects of the law surrounding their job. One slip in any area and that could be the end of that. It only takes one person one person who is easily offended.
Since a PR person represents and is the symbolic “face” of a company, it’s important that he or she is careful of the things they say and write when addressing issues regarding public opinions or competition.
When reading about defamation, libel suits and the like, at first, it was easy to think, “So just don’t say anything negative…that’s easy.” But I know that when you’re angry, especially when in times of crisis, offense or defense, and if you have poor self control, you can throw caution to the wind and say things you’ll only regret later. You wouldn’t want to be slapped with a fine or law suit for making an rude or generally unflattering comments about the competition.
Even blogging: defamation suits have been handed out to bloggers and people on Twitter just for mentioning a negative experience they had with a certain company in their posts. Because of the potential damage to their reputation, among other issues, the company has the right to claim libel and defamation, if they can show your statement to be false.
Marketing is another big part of public relations. For the sake of the success of your ad campaign, it’s vital to understand the rules around the uses of protected material. It could be quite dangerous to be caught using protected catch phrases, trademarks, photos or artwork.
Remembering also that permission needs to of course be granted for the use of pictures, names or quotes of celebrities in marketing ads–especially if you were looking for their endorsement… it’d be good to check with them first.
Also included under the umbrella of marketing is the topic of the Federal Trade Commission’s “jurisdiction to determine if advertisements are deceptive or misleading” (196). They have the power to monitor and regulate product news releases, advertisements and product publicity (like videos or brochures). PR people need to be aware that they may become subject to liability claims if they in any way create ads or promos that present false information– information that could potentially mislead or deceive audiences regarding their product.
Don’t make that mistake.