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Advocacy in Action

PRSA constantly monitors legislative, regulatory and public policy issues that impact the public relations profession. Below are examples of PRSA’s advocacy program in action, helping to extol the business value of public relations.


Issue: The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight investigated the federal government’s use of public relations and advertising services.
Action: PRSA initiated a proactive lobbying campaign. It sent letters to Senator Claire McCaskill (D–Mo.) and Senator Rob Portman (R–Ohio), who jointly led the investigation, urging them not to take overly restrictive actions that might impair the government’s use of approved public relations firms. PRSA also published an op-ed in Roll Call newspaper expressing its concerns with the investigation.


Issue: The Federal Trade Commission issued a Call for Comments regarding a planned overhaul of its “Dot Com Disclosure” guidelines, which advise businesses on how federal advertising law applies to advertising, marketing and sales on the Internet.                                                                             
Action: PRSA submitted comments noting that its 32,000 members believe strongly in online consumer protections and are seeking clear guidance from the FTC regarding how businesses can appropriately communicate and market consumers online. PRSA also noted that disclosure of relationships, motivation, compensation and other pertinent factors should be the basis of all forms of marketing and communications, including emerging practices like social media and online contests. Finally, PRSA requested the FTC host a public workshop on online advertising disclosure to obtain the full input from all stakeholders.

Issue: The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight investigated the use of public relations and public affairs firms by state and federal government agencies.                                                                                                                                                                                              
Action: Through proactive lobbying efforts, PRSA successfully averted potential actions by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight to diminish or severely restrict the U.S. government’s use of approved public relations and public affairs services and counsel.
Action: PRSA submitted a formal letter to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, asking it to thoroughly consider the substantial public interest served by public relations and public affairs on behalf of the federal government. The letter was cited in the Subcommittee’s March 1, 2011, hearing on federal and state government agencies’ use of public relations and public affairs services.

Issue: The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) issued a call for comments via its "Living Ethics Blog" seeking feedback and commentary relevant to disclosure within social media contests and data scraping.
Action: PRSA submitted comments noting the need for greater disclosure throughout the entirety of social media contests, and also advocating that public relations and marketing professionals reasonably inform consumers of the motivations and intent of use behind the messaging they receive within a social media contest, no matter the medium used.   


Issue: The Federal Trade Commission issued a Call for Comments regarding proposed revisions to the Commission's environmental marketing guidelines.
Action: PRSA submitted comments applauding the FTC's efforts to revise its guidelines for environmental marketing practices, and also calling for greater specificity to ensure the public is fully informed of the validity of claims.


Issue: The Federal Trade Commission issued a Call for Comments on rule changes restricting the use of testimonials and endorsements in advertising.
Action: PRSA submitted comments calling for further clarification of the rules.


Issue: In his memoir, Bush Administration Press Secretary Scott McClellan alleged issuing less than accurate information per instructions.
Action: PRSA issued a call for government agencies to enhance communications policies to pre-empt alleged conflicts of loyalty.

Issue: CBS News’ “Sunday Morning”aired an opinion segment by commentator Andrew Cohen roundly attacking the public relations profession.
Action: PRSA recorded a video to set the record straight. CBS later aired a defense of the public relations function by its vice president of communications.

Issue: A public relations firm allegedly funded a front group to derail re-election of officials who voted against a megastore, violating Michigan campaign law.
Action: PRSA issued a position to affirm obligations under the PRSA Code of Ethics to counsel against undisclosed front groups.

Issue: Public debate raged when anonymous posts on social media site caused emotional harm to fellow students.
Action: PRSA issued a Media Alert offering commentary on how anonymous Internet postings violate PRSA Code of Ethics principles.

Issue: Respectful discourse had given way to negative and personal campaign messages, and PRSA acted proactively to stem the tide. 
Action: PRSA launched the Clean and Fair Campaign 2008 and issued a formal challenge to the presidential campaigns to pledge to Code principles.
Action: PRSA also set up a Facebook group around a shared commitment to these principles as a de facto public referendum.


Issue: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) held a quickly arranged press conference at which staff filled in after media failed to appear.
Action: PRSA issued a public statement assessing the agency’s actions and offering guidance.
Action: At FEMA’s invitation, PRSA provided an on-site educational session for FEMA staff at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.


Issue: An activist group petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to require source identification in Video News Releases (VNRs) at each airing.
Action: PRSA joined the National Association of Broadcast Communicators and issued a public statement reinforcing the limits of the FCC rules.


IssueProposed legislation would have impeded the use of  VNRs by tightening disclosure requirements for government-sponsored VNRs.
Action: PRSA testified before Congress against the bill and its implications for the public relations profession.

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