When contemplating whether or not something is ethical, you must first decide if it is truthful. Oftentimes, if someone is not honest in their communication, their actions will be unethical. It has become commonplace for a music artist to have ghostwriters or for a PR professional to write a quote for the CEO of their organization. Throughout my career, I’ve been tasked with creating quotes for CEOS or department heads to include in content that is disseminated to the media.
“There has been considerable debate on PR professionals’ blogs about whether undisclosed ghost blogging is ethical” (Gallicano, Brett, & Hopp, 2013). It goes on to state, “In a recent survey of public relations professionals, most respondents expressed approval of undisclosed ghost blogging, provided that the stated author provides the content ideas and gives content approval” (Gallicano et al., 2013).
While it shows good moral value to credit a ghostwriter on a song, informing the media that a quote the CEO included in a press release was written by a PR professional is not. However, if the company or individual is writing in the same voice and being honest, it should not be unethical.
The public knows that the CEO of an organization does not have the time to delegate exactly what will be on the organization’s social media. Companies hire various teams for this purpose and train the new employees to know the company’s mission, goals and message. They should be able to relay this information in an honest manner that is not unethical.
Since a “front group” by definition is a public relations technique that is used “to influence public opinion and public policy on behalf of undisclosed special interests”, it does not have a respectable moral code at its core. “Such special interests are usually large organizations or industries whose business practices and motives are often ethically questionable and conflicting with public interest” (http://ethicsinpr.wikispaces.com/Front+groups). This presents a different scenario. There’s already a lack of trust in this type of group, so even well-intentioned actions may seem unethical.
Circumstances that could make me view a person ghostwriting a speech or song as being unethical would have to include dishonesty. If the PR professional was questioned about content and where it originated, being as transparent as possible is key. In most cases, the media will find out the truth through research. It’s better if the story comes from the organization or PR professional.