Be transparent: Similar to the earlier principles of “avoid deception,” this guideline directly encourages practitioners to acknowledge paid speech in digital campaigns. In television commercials, advertisers are required to acknowledge a paid spokesperson; Bowen recommends a similar approach to digital campaigns. When a quote appears in a digital publication, practitioners should identify if the speaker was paid to promote or speak. This helps prevent deception and encourages transparency in promotional strategies.
Clearly identify: Like paid speech, Bowen recommends that messages are differentiated between personal speech or opinions and statements as an official representative of the organization. Informing the public when an individual speaks on behalf of the organization versus just shares their opinion can help delineate authentic expressions of thoughts from tailored and crafted messages. This can aid the believability of the speech.
Yelp could accomplish this by telling users when a review is posted by a customer versus a paid representative of the company. Other users are likely to believe more the authentic review from a customer than a paid or representative review from someone within the organization. It is unethical to try to deceive the public by posting a paid review on Yelp that pretends it is from a customer.
Rational analysis: The eighth guideline suggests that messages should be evaluated for potential misinterpretation. Digital media transcends national, cultural and linguistic boundaries. As a result, considering how different global cultures from around the world may interpret the message is one way to avoid a crisis. Further, acknowledging the global reach of a message is also ethical because it understands the potential to impact a variety of publics (not just the target of a strategy). McDonald’s’ many Twitter accounts in a variety of languages uses the ethical principle of rational analysis because it understands the global potential of a campaign or message.
Emphasize clarity: This guideline suggests that practitioners work to make a source or sponsorship of online content clear in multiple ways. In addition to noting the sponsorship or paid-speech within the message, hyperlinking (providing a web address) to the source adds additional transparency and clarity. Further, it demonstrates to the public that the organization aims to be honest in its communication and is not trying to hide anything.
Disclose: Bowen suggests that practitioners reveal facts/data collected from users that form the basis for campaign and message development. Organizations can collect or buy big datasets that contain sensitive customer information such as gender, age, income and location. By revealing what data is collected and how it used, organizations can avoid customers feeling deceived or monitored.