When writing a press release, sometimes it’s easy to forget that your release is going to be seen by thousands of people when it is published. All those pairs of eyes on your work means that you have to be extremely careful when it comes to the legal and ethical implications of publishing your press release.
How much attention you need to pay towards law and ethics will depend on the topic of your press release, however even the mildest of releases could still be ethically problematic. For example, if you announce a partnership with another business but that company is unaware of the announcement, or wanted it to be delayed, there is an ethical implication that could have been avoided with better communication.
Editors’ Code of Practice
The Editors’ Code of Practice sets out the rules that newspapers and magazines regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) have agreed to follow. While it is the responsibility of the journalist to ensure your press release complies with the code, it is beneficial to cast an eye over it to give you some guidance on what is and is not acceptable.
The Code has 16 clauses relating to factors such as accuracy, children, discrimination and includes exemptions if the story is in the public interest, so it’s well worth a look to check you comply with the Code before distributing your press release.
Use of Quotes
While it is common for quotes to be made up on behalf of a spokesperson, getting them approved by that person is absolutely crucial. It goes back to the idea that thousands of people are going to see what your spokesperson has to say. If they are not 100% happy with what they have been quoted as saying, there is an ethical issue with your press release being published, particularly if that spokesperson is then subject to unexpected criticism.
This is even more important when you are quoting people outside of your company, such as a customer or a partner organisation. Always double check they have approved their quote before distribution.
Before distributing a press release, you should be confident that you have not plagiarised anyone else’s work.
Copyrighted material can be any other content created by someone else, including images and quotes. If the image you are sending was not taken by you, permission should be granted by whoever took the photo and they should be credited. Journalists will then use the credit when publishing the press release.
Don’t risk using content without permission as apart from it being unethical, it can expose your business to legal battles.
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