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TODD SMITH — White House to launch impeachment response plan

TODD SMITH

Top White House officials will soon present President Trump with a wide-ranging response strategy to the growing threat of impeachment, following a week of mixed messaging and growing angst within Trump’s adviser team.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone will be among those who present the president with the plan for a rapid-response effort that could come soon, according to NBC News.

Within the White House there has been a growing acknowledgement that a coordinated legal, political, and public relations messaging response is needed to help Trump as it becomes clear he is facing what may be the greatest threat to his presidency.

Trump declared “we are at war” during a closed-door speech to diplomats at the United Nations, with some aides describing the response effort as a war room fashioned after the Clinton White House’s response. But others are trying to downplay the seriousness of the threat, side-stepping the war room terminology, according to NBC News.

It was unclear who would lead the internal effort, but one person expected to play a role is White House spokesman Steven Groves, who has spent time in both the White House counsel’s office helping manage the Mueller inquiry and the press shop as a spokesman on issues related to congressional investigations, the sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Advisers have modeled their response after lessons learned from the Clinton White House’s impeachment fight as well as their own response to the controversy over Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, widely viewed internally as a success, the sources said.

In the days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally launched an impeachment inquiry following revelations that Trump solicited help from the president of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, there has been widespread anxiety in the White House, with people familiar with the situation describing the mood as “shell-shocked.”

The White House is planning to rely heavily on outside allies in Congress and with the campaign. Some advisers have mused about bringing back some of Trump’s former aides who have been in the trenches with him before, such as former White House strategist Steven Bannon or campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Senior campaign officials indicated the organization’s rapid-response team will continue to produce and roll out impeachment inquiry material on every platform, with a special focus on social media and fundraising messaging, according to NBC News.

Key messaging is already being shaped, as Trump’s allies have sought to paint the Democrats as focused solely on impeachment at the cost of domestic policy issues like gun control and health care, an issue that helped Democrats gain ground in 2018.

Ethics for Online Data Use in PR

Each September, PRSA celebrates Ethics Month, and this year the society hosted a Twitter chat to explore the legal and ethical issues surrounding online data use in the PR practice.

Through a series of seven questions the Twitter chat addressed issues ranging from choosing vendors                              to applying the PRSA Code of Ethics to online data research. Here is the list of questions and a summary of responses:

What are some primary ethical considerations with using data for PR strategies?

Privacy is the major issue in ethical use of data within public relations. The discussion emphasized that privacy isn’t just about gathering data. It includes how data is going to be used, and the level of disclosure provided to users.

An organization’s reputation is tied to how it treats its publics, and users are a public. The Data Science Code of Professional Conduct and the Digital Analytics Association offer some specific insight about the ethical use, management and analysis of data.

What are the legal considerations for PR strategies?

Legal issues arise with data collections, storage, use and disclosure. In global public relations, not all countries’ privacy and data laws work the same. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new reality that PR practitioners working internationally have to be aware of. Another critical point is data laws can be specific to industries (HIPPA for health care public relations, for example) as well as U.S. states.

When should PR pros inform audiences about the collection and use of data?

At every stage. Organizations have a legal and ethical duty to users providing content. Being transparent with users is a non-negotiable part of data use.

What are potential missteps when it comes to using – or misusing – consumer data?

Data misuse occurs in two main areas. The first is when the data is made to support a pre-determined outcome. Consumer data may tell only one side of a story, so it’s vital for PR practitioners to recognize that while consumer data is valuable it has explanatory limitations. 

Second, many users may not be aware how their information is going to be used. Be upfront and honest about that. There is a difference between users being aware that their data is being used and understanding how it is being used. Transparency is essential to maintain organizational integrity.

How does the PRSA Code of Ethics relate to the use of data?

The Code of Ethics is not written in the abstract, nor does it apply to only specific situations. Its relevance and power come from its universal application to all areas of PR practice. Data use is no different. How PR practitioners gather, use and store data represents the profession. Ethical decision-making is essential because it reflects on how we enhance our profession.

How do you evaluate vendors and tools to ensure ethical storing and sharing of data?

Be upfront about what your organization needs, and ask what experience the vendor has with this type of work. Make sure the vendors are providing data services in accordance with the law, and, if necessary, have data experts evaluate the vendor’s work.

Data should be used in the way it was explained to the user. A vendor risk assessment was recommended to ensure vendors and partners are committed to ethical data management.

How can PR practitioners use legal standards to advocate for ethical use of data?

The law and ethics frequently go hand-in-hand. PR practitioners should know the law isn’t just for legal departments and lawyers; PR practitioners need to have a legal awareness about issues of practice. Data use is an area of communications that has legal regulations and PR pros should stay up-to-date on legal trends in the field. 

Use of online data and consumer information is a growing area of PR practice. What the PRSA Twitter chat showed is that even though data use is an increasingly sophisticated practice, the PRSA Code of Ethics still provides insights on how practitioners should work. Ethical use of consumer data in the PR practice is key because it impacts clients, organizations, and, most important, our profession.

The full conversation can be found by searching #EthicsMonth on Twitter.

» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners.

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