1-800-Flowers and Ethical Use of Digital Media

Although the earlier Yelp example demonstrated an unethical approach to digital public relations, companies have used the spaces of digital media to act in an ethical manner. One successful and ethical use of digital media prevented a crisis for 1-800-Flowers, the website where customers can send flowers to friends and family.

In 2014, a large snowstorm system moved close to New York City on Valentine's Day, jeopardizing flower deliveries on the biggest holiday of the year for 1-800-Flowers. Although the retailer’s terms and conditions clearly stated it was not legally responsible for delayed deliveries because of the weather, its leaders decided to shut-down all new orders for Valentine’s Day and tweet hourly updates regarding the snow and possible deliveries. Customers could also tweet the retailer and ask questions about their individual orders, refunds and rain checks. By using the instantaneous and multi-directional parts of digital media, the retailer demonstrated its care for customer satisfaction over profits. The company's digital ethical guidelines prevented a major crisis, particularly on an emotional topic, such as flowers for Valentine's Day.

Public relations practitioners must be well-versed in the management of digital media in order to avoid a crisis and behave ethically like 1-800-Flowers. Although the retailer was legally protected by its terms of service agreement and therefore did not have to do anything, its leaders instead chose to use digital media to prevent an ethics crisis and reinforce a positive reputation of the company.  So how can public relations practitioners know if their strategy is ethical like 1-800-Flowers, or unethical like Yelp? Fortunately, researchers have identified 15 ethical guidelines that can inform these choices.

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