A Bunch of PRs Donated to ‘OK!’ Editor’s Vet Fund

You really can’t make this dumb crap up.

OK! Magazine‘s East Coast editor and frequent reality TV commentator Shauna Bass had a sick (and very cute) Pomeranian named Simba that sadly died of its illnesses. Bass spent tons of money at the vet in ultimately vain attempts to save little Simba.

Bass’ sister set up a memorial fund to compensate Bass for the cost of the vet bills, which is actually not really in the charitable spirit of what a memorial fund is intended to do. The Simba Bass Memorial Fund is designed to “help Shauna focus on healing after this tragedy.” Bloody hell.

So far, the fund has raised more than $5,000, a chunk of it from PRs who could very well be pitching her stories. Gawker has a list of some of those charitable PR souls.

We asked the PRSA for their ethical take on this situation. A response from the chair and CEO Gerard Corbett, after the jump.

Though it’s not “an apple-to-apples comparison,” Corbett has a few points to make on the topic:

“First, I would caution PR professionals to exercise good judgment about whether to provide donations to a cause like this.  I would advise about being transparent and I would recommend that the donation be personal.  I would also question the magazine about its ethics policies and the efficacy of allowing a reporter to use the offices of the organization to solicit donations to suppliers and other interested parties for a cause like this.”

And in case you need a refresher, here’s the Association’s Pay for Play policy:

Pay for Play

ISSUE: Pay for Play (PFP) occurs when there is intent to hide an exchange of value between a PR professional and a journalist. It occurs when PR professionals make undisclosed payments to journalists or media to publish or broadcast a client’s story. Or, when PR professionals compensate journalists or media to allow placement of stories that appear to be editorial material, again, failing to disclose that the information was provided by outside sources and for which compensation (including advertising) was provided in some form in exchange for publication or broadcast. The payment can be in various forms, including gifts and future favors.  A variety of Pay for Play practices occur in many industries and countries. Business behaviors and customs vary widely. The purpose of this discussion is to provide guidance for PR practitioners on how to address these practices while remaining faithful to the PRSA Code. As publics demand greater transparency from institutions, internationally and inter-culturally, it is important that public relations practitioners do their part in addressing any undisclosed practice that could significantly affect the credibility of communications channels. Media professionals are responsible for their own ethical issues. The ethical practitioner encourages disclosure of any exchange of value that influences how those they represent are covered.

BACKGROUND: Pay for Play (PFP), the undisclosed compensation of reporters or media for the placement of editorial material, is improper under the PRSA Code of Ethics. Readers, listeners, and viewers have the right to expect advance disclosure about anything that might compromise the integrity of the information they are getting. There are gray areas, in that definitions of ethical impropriety may vary widely between industries, countries and individuals, and PFP is condoned and expected in many cultures.