Since the majority of public relations will be online in the future, I believe that there will be no hiding ethical controversies, and therefore, will be more of them. While there is no doubt in my mind that public relations specialists will be faced with the same ethical dilemmas that in a sense, come with the job, they will not be able to hide them as much as in the past. For example, the scandal surrounding Scott McClellan, the Press Secretary for President Bush, was shed to light by social media and the Internet. While the White House and the United States government is usually very hidden from the public, people were constantly discussing the ethical issues on traditional media sources as the war in Iraq began and carried on. Years later, McClellan came out with a book trying to cover his tracks about the ethical scandal. Once the book came out and he began interviews, social media sites such as YouTube exploded with the reposts of the interviews and controversial talks on the ethical issues that McClellan faced while informing the public on the need for the war. Although tradition media sites such as television news covered the stories, it wasn’t until a few years later that the scandal made its way online. In the future, as even Press Secretaries and other public relations specialists use online sources such as Twitter to post news and updates, the public outcry will be much faster. They will in essence, always be watched. As the use of the Internet continues and increases, this will only increase. Companies and public relations specialists will be faced with the public eye watching there every move.
An example of this was seen somewhat recently with Kenneth Cole’s twitter account. The company tweeted a controversial statement about the situation in Cairo and making light of saying it was the result of his new spring collection being available online. This was instantly under scrutiny by other media sources and the public. Again, the Internet put the spotlight on Cole’s ethics. Is it right to use a serious and dire event in order to sell products? The Internet didn’t think so.
It is obvious that as the Internet is used more often, we will be exposed to more of these controversial PR stunts entering the public eye. The public outcry will also continue to happen faster as technology improves and sources of information changes. The interesting thing will be to see how PR specialists will adjust how they handle these difficult ethical decisions.