SEPTEMBER 2020 MONTHLY CHAPTER MEETING
Since September is PR Ethics Month, PRAM Central is offering a special panel discussion at 10:30 a.m. followed by our 11:45 a.m. chapter meeting.
In observance of September as Public Relations Ethics Month, we will have a special panel discussion from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Join us for this virtual panel of experienced practitioners from across the country, led by Paula L. Pedene, APR, Fellow PRSA. Pedene has gathered some of the nation’s top experts on PR Ethics, to discuss the state of ethics in our profession.
Panelists include BJ Whitman, MBA, APR, Fellow PRSA; Cayce Myers, Ph.D, LL.M., J.D., APR; and Tim O’Brien, APR.
Following the panel presentation, attendees (via a second Zoom link) can jump on for our September PRAM Central Chapter Meeting at 11: 45 a.m. and hear from Pedene herself. Pedene’s road to ethics advocate came by way of a personal and unique challenge. She was one of the first whistleblowers at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. A whistleblower is a person who exposes information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or out of line within an organization. In disclosing evidence of a hostile work environment and funds mismanagement, she later became a target for managers who wanted to silence her.
Leaders put her through an unrelenting two-year smear campaign with the goal to break her. They stripped her of staff, budget and duties. They took away her phone and told those who called that she no longer worked there. They took away her email, letting thousands of requests from staff, patients and the community go unanswered. They robbed her of due process. They put her under an illegal gag order. They targeted her with bogus scandals. They denied her the basic rights available to every American. They stoked unfounded rumors about her. They turned investigations that were designed to be objective into kangaroo court-like weapons against her. They humiliated her with banishment to the basement library.
But eventually, Pedene, her legal team, and a whistleblower physician formulated a strategy that paid off. During a congressional hearing on April 9, 2014, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee revealed he had the names of 40 veterans who died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital. In the ensuing firestorm, the hospital’s executive leadership was fired and the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs was forced to resign. As details of the scandal continued to unfold, the nation learned that wait list abuses like those in Phoenix spanned 111 VA facilities in 19 states.
Pedene and her team were vindicated. She helped save the lives of thousands of veterans, and won her whistleblower case against VA. Her story is one that compels us to take notice as to why morals, ethics and values are important in all we do.
BJ Whitman, MBA, APR, Fellow PRSA, is a public relations executive with more than 30 years of strategic communication experience in the industries of Education, Maritime and Hospitality. Her resume reflects an extensive background in strategic communications, marketing, media relations, event planning, marketing promotions, mentoring, executive positioning and community relations. Whitman took a special interest in mentoring young public relations professionals and during her career mentored over 350 interns as they began working in this field. In 2017, Whitman was the recipient of the Hall of Honor Award, the most prestigious lifetime achievement award for a distinguished and exemplary career in public relations in Hawaii. Whitman earned her Bachelor of Business Administration and Masters of Business Administration from Chaminade University of Honolulu. She earned her accreditation in public relations and was elected to the College of Fellow at PRSA in 2007.
Cayce Myers, Ph.D, LL.M., J.D., APR is an associate professor at Virginia Tech’s Department of Communication where he teaches public relations and communication law. He holds a Ph.D. in mass communication from the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, an LL.M. focusing on media law from the University of Georgia School of Law, and a J.D. from Mercer University School of Law. A member of the Public Relations Society of America, Dr. Myers earned his Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and has served on PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS). He is also a member of the Arthur W. Page Society and is the Legal Research Editor for the Institute for Public Relations. His research focuses on public relations history, and laws that influence public relations practice.
Tim O’Brien, APR founded O’Brien Communications, a corporate communications consultancy, in 2001. He advises clients from Fortune 100 companies to associations, start-ups and nonprofits with a focus on C-suite communication. He is a member of the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards. Tim earned his bachelor’s degree with dual majors in Journalism and Speech/Rhetoric at Duquesne University. He is a columnist for PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics monthly, and a frequent contributor to many other media. His podcast, Shaping Opinion, can be found on all major podcast platforms. He contributed to the PR News Crisis Management Guidebook, the PR News Employee Communications Guidebook, and he was featured in Harvard Business School Press’s The Essentials of Corporate Communications and Public Relations. In 2017, he was honored with PRSA’s inaugural “Indie Award.”