Social Media Guidelines

The PRII Guidelines on Engagement with Social Media Influencers state that: "When engaging with Influencers, it unethical and illegal to pay for space, endorsement or positive comment without that being clearly declared as such. Fundamentally, the principles of engagement with traditional media, also hold true for social media influencers."

News must be provided without charge or hidden reward for its use or publication and it is unethical under the PRII Codes of Ethics to attempt to deceive public opinion or its representatives. Failure to comply with can result in disciplinary action. It is also illegal under the Consumer Protection Act 2007, for editorial content to be used to promote a product if it is not made clear that the promotion is a paid promotion.

This is very much about updating our code of best practice for members to reflect the new media / digital media landscape and to reiterate that the principles of engagement with traditional media hold true for social media, especially in terms of earned media and paid for media.

The issue of what constitutes appropriate interaction with Social Media Influencers (bloggers, vloggers, instagrammers etc) has been a concern of our members and especially over the past six months.

As part of our activity in this area we held a roundtable discussion on Ethics and Social Media Engagement back at the start of February and we have developed the ‘PRII Guidelines on Engagement with Social Media Influencers’ to sit alongside our Code of Ethics. To help adoption of these we have also set out a number of principles for interaction for both PRII Members and separately their clients / employers on how they should approach their work with influencers.

The first point is to stress that it is unethical and illegal to pay for space endorsement or positive comment without that being clearly declared as such. The Guidelines can be downloaded here in a printable format or members can order hard copies by emailing Turn on Javascript!.

 

Unethical 

It is forbidden under the PRII Codes of Ethics to attempt to deceive public opinion or its representatives. News must be provided without charge or hidden reward for its use or publication. Failure to comply with the PRII Codes of Ethics can result in disciplinary action.

 

Illegal 

It is illegal under the Consumer Protection Act 2007, Section 55 (1) (q) for editorial comment to be used to promote a product if it is not made clear that the promotion is a paid promotion. Conviction can lead to a penalty of up to €3,000 fine and six months in prision.

 

Five Principles for PRII Members 

1. News must be provided without charge or hidden reward for its use or publication.

2. Provision of goods and services to influencers for trial and review is a normal part of public relations activity. It is unethical and detrimental to the practice of public relations, to link provision of such goods and services to a demand for favourable coverage. However there is no obligation to provide goods or services to an Influencer for review.

3. Earned media coverage can never be guaranteed. If coverage is guaranteed, then it is advertising. It is unethical and a disservice to the profession for a public relations practitioner to enter a contract with a client or employer under which the practitioner guarantees quantified results.

4. Advertising can be part of a public relations campaign, once it complies with the rules, practices and usages of that field.

5. Advertising or sponsored content must be clearly differentiated from editorial content. Most of the time this should be very straightforward. However there is no set standard in Ireland. If in doubt, ask the Influencer how they clearly differentiate between advertising and editorial content and satisfy yourself that this is clear and transparent to readers.

 

Three Principles for Clients/Employers 

1. Make sure your PR professional is a PRII member. If engaging with a public relations practitioner, make sure they are members of the PRII. Membership of the PRII means that they adhere to our Codes of Ethics and have reached a recognised level of professional experience.

2. Guaranteed controlled editorial coverage is advertising not public relations. Advertising can form part of a public relations campaign. However, editorial coverage is dependent on the editorial judgement of the Influencer and that must be respected.

3. Not all coverage can be positive. Sometimes Influencers may not like your product, service or event. That must be respected. If all coverage from an outlet is positive, it has little value for consumers.

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