Beyond Law: Ethical Culture and GDPR

What it was

A CIPR Business Ethics Briefing, completed as part of my CIPR continuous professional development.

What I learned

GDPR can be seen as a gift – an opportunity for fresh thinking and a challenge to make sure we are being fair and open in our dealings with customers.

At heart, GDPR seeks to give control to individuals over how organisations use their personal data (and to harmonise such privacy laws across the EU).

Getting GDPR wrong could mean significant fines, negative publicity, loss of trust, reputation and brand damage, legal actions and regulatory enforcement.

Rather than embracing GDPR out of fear of the negative consequences, organisations can look to how it supports ethical business practice.

The need to separate Ethics from Compliance – “Ethics starts where the law ends”.  Compliance is arguably too narrow a prism through which to see GDPR.

The  briefing proposes practical steps for ensuring that organisations use data ethically – and so comply with GDPR along the way.

What I will aim to do differently as a result

Consider the wider ethical considerations of GDPR in our implementation plans

Communicate the importance of the ethical usage of personal data, and importance of leaders setting the tone

Consider how our organisation could go beyond compliance and address cultural issues on data handling

Business Ethics and Artificial Intelligence 2018

What it was:

CIPR written briefing studied as part of Continuous Professional Development, 27 February 2018:

What I learned:

AI is relevant to Business Ethics – for example, how do you ensure your organisation’s values are being applied if decisions are being made algorithmically?

Potential risks of AI:

  • Ethics risk
  • Workforce risk (loss of jobs /skills)
  • Technology risk (cyber-attacks)
  • Algorithmic risk (biased decisions)
  • Legal risk (privacy / GDPR)

AIs may be accurate but nonetheless reflect human biases.

Open-sourcing may be important for openness and trust in AI systems – this could be especially true in Govt where trust is critical and keep source closed is less important.

“Explainability” is key to AI trust and to working alongside an AI partner.

AI work and contracts should specify responsibilities carefully – AIs cannot be held responsible for their behaviour!

Some practical steps organisations can take:

  • Meta-decision-making to ensure AI systems act in line with organisational ethical values.
  • Make sure third party algorithms adhere to ethical standards.
  • Establish a multi-disciplinary Ethics Research Unit.
  • Introduce ‘ethics tests’ for AI machines, where they are presented with an ethical dilemma.
  • Ensure staff have access to relevant training courses and communications re: ethical use of AI

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

In future I will:

  • Think about ethical and legal and other risks of AI projects at the design stage
  • Continue my learning and investigation of AI as applied to my organisation’s business
  • Consider whether ethics, compliance and legal teams should be engaged in AI projects.

CIPR webinar: What’s new in social media?

What it was:

An online seminar from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, accessed on 27 February 2016

What I learned:

Various insights from the annual OfCom report:

  • 72% of adults have a social profile, including 28% of 65 and over
  • Facebook has highest reach and engagement
  • 16-24s have breadth of social media e.g. instagram, snapchat
  • Twitter often used to air complaints or frustrations
  • Almost a fifth of adults say they are hooked on social media

Other insights

  • Twitter published a “Government and Elections Handbook”
  • Twitter analytics console has updated and is now powerful e.g follower analysis
  • Highest engagement with a tweet does not happen neatly on the hour or on the half hour
  • Facebook video overtaking Youtube video?
  • IFTTT has growing useful recipes e.g. when someone edits a wikipedia page
  • PR stack project looks at e.g. workflows to manage PR processes
  • CIPRSM hack days seem interesting; generate content on the fly

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Ensure anything targeting younger demographic considers e.g. snapchat
  • Remember that older demographic are strong social users, too.
  • Re-examine Twitter analytics and use of Facebook video
  • Consider innovative uses of hacks e.g. to generate learning content on the say of an event
  • Look at what engagement, insight or analytics processes can be automated e.g. through IFTTT

Campaigns that shook the world: The evolution of public relations – Danny Rogers

What it was:

I read the book ‘Campaigns that shook the world: The evolution of public relations’ by Danny Rogers as part of my Continuous Professional Development during February 2016.

What I learned:

Key points of learning for me from the campaigns covered in this book:

Thatcher election campaign

  • First modern political campaign in UK; visual, impactful
  • identifed potential swing groups of voters e.g. women labour voters
  • Event advertising – creating news spike from small number of ad sites
  • close alignment with newspaper editors
  • avoided battles they can’t win

New Labour, New Britain

  • Rolling news; rebuttal; The Grid
  • Blair and his advisers were a client/agency relationship, much like Thatcher
  • Aspiration was key to campaign

Royal renaissance

  • long term campaign
  • use of exclusive photographs
  • relationship with media changed; robust and uneven campaign

Rolling stones

  • wide and comprehensive campaign, lots of tie-ups, sponsorship
  • top team were engaged and flexible, did media that was tailored and adapted
  • pioneering of big stadium gigs

David Beckham

  • managing the narrative
  • lots of tie-ins and comms
  • spanning into new sectors; novelty

London 2012

  • clarity and consistency of the vision; did not deviate
  • team discovered that there is a growing chasm between media coverage and actual perception
  • used consistent opinion tracking throughout


  • use of co-branding and partnering
  • some valid criticism of campaign which is a middle-man for fundraising, lack of transparency?

Obama for America

  • Clear phases to the campaign
  • aspirational
  • ground campaign: use of data to maximise and maintain subscriber lists etc.


  • Authenticity of message carried through the campaign
  • Issue marketing and thought-provoking content

Summary – some common attributes of successful campaigns:

  • Integrated campaigns
  • Clear vision, unified team, authenticity
  • PR-led strategy, consistent narrative
  • Collaborative approach to media
  • Forging partnerships
  • Embracing evolving concept of celebrity
  • Integrity, purpose
  • Optimising digital tools
  • Building genuine movements

It’s worth being aware that this book necessarily looks retrospectively at successful campaigns and is therefore potentially post-hoc rationalisation of why they were successful – potentially, many unsuccessful campaigns would exhibit the same attributes.

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Have a clear vision and position, don’t deviate from it, keep all activity consistent and within that framework
  • Movements can be created and harnessed but think about authenticity
  • Think about celebrity, what this could mean in my work context, and how to embrace it
  • Think big, wide and long term when it comes to major campaigns
  • Don’t be afraid to think about affecting or re-baselining the fundamental relationships between players (e.g. between your organisation and the media, or by partnering) – truly successful campaigns are sometimes those that completely re-engineer the comms landscape. Don’t accept that landscape ‘as is’.


Reputation Management – options when all else fails

What it was:

Chartered Institute of Public Relations briefing, 21 October 2010

What I learned:

There are things that PRs can do when reputation is under attack
Tony Balir described the media as a “feral beast”
Some PR firms use intelligence gathering to protect clients/target critics.
The Press Complaints Commission can step in to help stop doorstepping very quickly.
PCC judges that information made available on social media profiles is fair game
Understand what libel law can do in such situations.
Stay calm! Remain emotionally detached.
Know your enemy – and consider contacting them.

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

Be aware of approaches that can be adopted in a reputational crisis.