The Pope and PR ethics

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By Danny Sullivan

This is probably the first and last time the Pope gets a mention on this blog, but this week’s events in Africa got me thinking.

What got the Pope in hot water while visiting a continent ravaged by AIDS/HIV was his public assertion that the use of condoms could increase risks to public health related to the spread of the disease.

For most companies, there are countless topical situations that could be taken advantage of for the purpose of making a point. In some cases it might be appropriate and prudent to do so, and for others, definitely not. The events of September 11, 2001 are a prime example of the latter, where there were some who tried to capitalize on the fear generated around the attacks. But the majority of businesses rightly balked at such callous practice.

Many technology firms will unfortunately come across occasions when a global disaster or terrible event would provide a potential platform from which to illustrate their product’s capabilities, and how they might have prevented events from happening. But they just don’t. Our ethics help us to realize it’s better to say nothing in certain situations.

While I understand that the Pope has an agenda that he firmly believes in (as does the leadership of most organizations), I would have thought that someone within the Vatican’s PR department might have raised the point that certain subject matter might be better left alone when visiting the epicenter of that subject.

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