Week Eight – Ethical Issues and Online Media

13 Apr
Doing what is morally right, honourable and following the rules or laws when it comes to online media is extremely fundamental when it comes to the success and reputation of a company and brand. In my opinion, as a consumer and Advertising and Marketing student, this is one of the most important aspects of a company to get right…

Do companies act ethically and conform to regulations when it comes to the online space? This could involve such things as data and information protection when it comes to online applications such as social networks or email. According to Ethisphere only 110 companies online are listed as some of the “World’s most ethical companies” in 2011 – however this shows that there are a great amount of companies that do not necessarily comply to the regulations to make their company ethical.

I believe that ethics when it comes to a company can be the make or break for their brand, they need to be very careful about what they do, say and act online – in order to keep an ethical appearance in the eyes of the consumers – as if they don’t this could be very problematic for their reputation. When it comes to ethical issues in advertising and other communications, this would be easier to have control over, as there are many checks, and something offensive and not right would get noticed and adapted in time. However I believe this may be different with social media and online communications, as it could rely on just one employee updating their Facebook, YouTube or Twitter account with customer feedback or posts – that could backfire if not handled in an ethical manner. As digital media is constantly changing it is becoming increasing important for companies to act ethically – as it is a good way to build consumer trust and relations with a brand.

Although having a Facebook page has become the norm for most companies, as it gives a personal platform for the consumer to engage with the brand. However the Facebook page needs to be monitored carefully and interact with consumers, their comments and opinions in a fair and ethical way – this is shown apparent in a recent example…The organisation PETA staged a take-over of DKNY’s Facebook page to protest against the use of fur within their latest collection. Different users changed their profile photos to letters and posted in succession on the company’s page to spell the words “DK Bunny Butcher” – as the brand was using rabbit fur. Since this, many supporters of the cause have got involved and posted their opinions on the Facebook page – and as the brand has over 200,000 fans, the protesters have reached many people in the process.

Although this obviously reflected badly on the DKNY brand itself, the company should have tried to handle the comments in an ethically correct way as the issue is concerning such important ethical topics. However the employees who deal with the social media aspect of the DKNY Company did not do this at all. Firstly they deleted the comments straight away – without responding to any of the concerns raised by the fans in regard to the PETA message. This caused even more up roar as the current fans of the brand felt unimportant and lost trust for the company. The decision with how to deal with the social media should have maybe been discussed amongst the communications team – as although it is only one aspect of their marketing, advertising and communications – it does have a wide reach and therefore could create negative press for the company. The brand took a long time to respond to further comments left on the page (2weeks) and replied a very short message stating that the fur used in their garments was from a credible source. Although it was a positive move that the company representative responded to the comments – rather than just leaving it – it was not done in a very sympathetic or ethically friendly way – and therefore this results in the page loosing many fans that had joined over the past months. This clearly shows that the updates made by the company need to be made regularly, monitored and checked by others to ensure not offense or negative issues are caused when dealing with ethical issues.


Along with this goes, hand in hand with online journalism and ethics. This is something greatly to be considered by bloggers, tweeters and company’s on Facebook. As Reuters explains in the video above – trust is key to any succeeding business and therefore ethics should be a high priority when publishing either articles or posts on a Facebook wall; as the trust of your customers is crucial to the reputation of a company.


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