Three Tips for Demonstrating Ethics on Social Media

By: Megan Bonelli

Rebecca L. Harris, PhD, Global Head, Social Center Expertise, General Motors shared her expertise on ethics civility this week in a hard hitting PRSA Detroit webinar. September is ethics month and we benefited greatly from hearing from Dr. Harris, as she has been at GM  for nearly 30 years and has a wealth of social media knowledge. Dr. Harris referred to social media as a tool in our PR tool box and provided four tips to ensure it’s always impactful.

Listen to learn

People are talking – and we need to understand what they’re talking about. If the conversation is negative it’s essential to listen and consider how to react or problem solve to resolve the issue at hand. There are many tools necessary to get the whole story, and listening to social is critical.

Integrate across

Ensuring your brand and sub-brands are all communicating a similar message is crucial. For GM, having consistent language with partner, OnStar is absolutely necessary, particularly during natural disasters. During all major storms, hurricanes, etc., OnStar plays a large role in helping those in need, which GM and OnStar need to equally communicate. Additionally, integrating all communication channels is essential in making sure that an organization’s messaging is consistent no matter where people are getting their information.

Employee Advocacy

Employees are a trusted resource. People trust employee messaging. In fact, GM is implementing an entire employee advocacy program so that employees can share high-impact company news through their own channels to inspire brand confidence. This entire program is optional, where employees can choose if they want to participate – which makes it authentic and personalized.

The facts don’t lie:

  • The average employee reaches over 1,400 people on social media.
  • Employees are 10X more trusted as a source of information.
  • The average overlap between a brand’s followers and their employees followers is only 8%

Own Your Story

From the bottom up and the bottom down, everyone in a company’s hierarchy should be ethical and transparent. Embracing a story and understanding how to communicate it in a way that is integrated, consistent and meaningful, is a big challenge, but one that must be taken seriously.

PRSA Ethics

Janelle Guthrie also joined the webinar to educate listeners on the Board of Ethics & Professional Standards, which she serves on. She explained that up to 11 people are on the board; each member serves a three-year term, and can serve up to two terms. Members on this board come from a variety of backgrounds: many prestigious organizations, political leaders, government leaders, college professors (do research on ethics – present at international conference). We provide programming, Twitter chats, events, educational guides and resources on the PRSA website and more, to educate PR professionals on ethics.

To learn more about the PRSA code of ethics please check out the PRSA website.  If you want to test out your ethics knowledge take the quiz on the  Detroit PRSA website.


Rebecca L. Harris, PhD, Global Head, Social Center Expertise, General Motors


Megan Bonelli (formerly Peterson) is a Senior Account Executive at Franco, a national/Detroit chapter member of PRSA, Detroit PRSA blog committee chair and a PR volunteer for The Lake House in St. Clair Shores.