Over time, MEPRA will be issuing policy and best practice statements regarding public relations acitivities. As our discipline evolves so new ideas are developed and adopted as best practice - some as a result of trial and error and some due to legal issues.
Recent issues addressed by MEPRA are:
1. Should a PRO edit wiki content (eg Wikipedia) for their clients? Our position is no unless they declare who they are. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has issued a draft code of ethics for online marketing -
The essence of the WOMMA Ethics Code comes down to the Honesty ROI:
* Honesty of Relationship: You say who you're speaking for
* Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
* Honesty of Identity: You never obscure your identity
Media Gifts: If ever you wanted to see how giving press expensive gifts can back-fire, have a read of AdNation’s story (http://adnationme.com/news/today-s-news/quids-in-for-journos-with-promise-of-expensive-freebies.html) where a non-MEPRA registered agency had sent invites out to the media citing “valuable” gifts if they turned up to a press event for the motorsports team My Qi-Meritus.Mahara at Dubai Autodrome. As AdNation’s reporter states” We stand by our judgement of this as a rather cynical ploy to lure the press to the event – and perhaps ensure some decent coverage”.
MEPRA was quoted in Emirates Busines 24/7 (23/04/09) on the issue of inducements for journalists to attend press conferences (agency, Idea PR, offering gold coins to the press on behalf of their client, the World Gold Council). If you are not aware, MEPRA does not condone this tactic, indeed we are against any form of bribe for coverage and completely endorse the UAE Journalist's Association position that "accepting gifts of value for attending a media event or providing media coverage breeches a journalist's integrity." It also undermines our own integrity as a profession
MEPRA’s position on gifts to the media: anything up to the value of AED 185 / US$ 50 is acceptable.
PRs and Academics Debate Moral Standards at Middle East PR Conference 2012
Gift-giving and enforcement of ethical standards would seem to be the most pressing moral concerns for the Middle East PR community. These were the key topics raised at this year's 2nd Middle East PR Conference, which was organised at the Zayed University's Dubai Media City campus in February 2012,
What is an appropriate gift? Under which circumstances can it be offered? And who should monitor and penalise offenders who are seeking to subvert the sanctity of the free press?
These and other questions were posed to a panel comprising experts from Edelman, In2consulting, Zayed University and the Gulf News and which was ably moderated by Juan Carlos Molleda from the University of Florida.
The issue would appear to be more complicated in the Middle East than other parts of the world. Regionally, it may be considered part of nomadic culture to provide a gift as a part of the ceremony of hospitality.
But where is the line drawn, and what do you do when, as a practitioner, you are asked to offer an expensive item by management or your client.
Is a competition prize covered by these codes as there is an element of chance involved therefore is not actually a gift?
The various guides and codes of conduct from Associations around the world provide explicit help on this matter:
* A Member shall preserve the Free Flow of information when giving or receiving gifts by ensuring that gifts are nominal, legal and infrequent.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA Code of Ethics)
* Editorial providers should prepare a policy statement regarding the receipt of gifts or discounted products and services from third parties by their journalists and other staff. Journalists and other staff should be required to read and sign acceptance of the policy. The policy should be available for public inspection.
International PR Association (Charter on Media Transparency)
MEPRA also has a robust and wholly appropriate article in its Code which states its Membership will not offer nor give, nor cause a client to offer or give, any inducement to persons holding public office or members of any statutory body or organisation such as the media with intent to further the interests of the client.
In terms of enforcement of these factors, the situation is less clear cut. Who has the legitimacy, the power and the ability to enforce these codes? What penalty should be inflicted and in what circumstances?
It is possible that in the case of inducing media to write positive articles, a global solution is close at hand.
In May 2012, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) issued its Sector Supplement for the Media (https://www.globalreporting.org/reporting/sector-guidance/media/Pages/default.aspx).
GRI is an 'optional' framework of guidelines which help companies report their ethical practices and the impact of their social responsibility activities. GRI reporting has been implemented by over 3,500 companies worldwide and a growing number or organisations in the UAE, including National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Dolphin Energy and the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development have signed up.
The new supplement will be launched early this year and which will 'encourage' organisations to report on a publication's transparency and editorial independence, as well as financial assistance and advertising revenues received from government and non-government sources. Once launched, the GRI's media supplement may have a significant impact on the local industry as it provides certification from an internationally recognised body.
MEPRA's Standards & Ethics Committee is communicating with the GRI and will update its Membership on the latest news on this important new Supplement.