It is a fascinating document, but one that raises at least as many questions as it answers...
The first thing to say is that is good to see the CIPR showing the initiative to take a lead in such contentious waters. But the problem is that by doing so it seems to suggest an underlying belief that social media is in some mysterious way different than any other aspect of public relations practice.
It is still being decided whether the CIPR Code of Conduct needs updating or whether guidance on social media should take the form of an advisory.
The document drafted by assistant director general Francis Ingham tries hard to identify the many ways in which engagement with social media might bring new challenges for practitioners and I think it is reasonable to assume that many will not have appreciated the implications of some of their actions. It is good to highlight these potential flashpoints.
But at the same time, it is worrying that he feels the need, say, to explain what defamation is. The document sets out many ways in which the use use of social media might bring about ethical problems but I am not sure I have discovered a single instance when engagement with new tools actually brings about a new dilemma.
An example might be suggest Question 9: Is there any difference between ghosting print articles and ghosting online material?
In ethical terms the answer is blindingly obvious - No!
It is as relevant as asking 'Is there any difference between lying in an English accent or a Scottish accent?'
Of course, I am not suggesting that ghosting is the same as lying. Or am I? Why do we think social media makes things any different? If we believe in transaperency for online activities how can we accept opaque behaviour offline?
We have to conclude that ghosting is either good or it is bad - the only difference I can see is that when we ghost online we might get caught...
One of the truly significant implications of the rise of social media might be to force PR out of the shadows. As long as being invisible is a badge of honour the general public will be suspicious of PR activity.
Although guidelines on its use are very welcome ethical PR practitioners simply shouldn't need a separate Code of Conduct for social media. What they need is a clear understanding of what constitutes ethical conduct in any form of PR activity.
Hopefully the debate that Francis Ingham and colleagues have put in train will helps us towards that hugely more important goal.