About Our Ethics
There is a lot of confusion in the addiction industry as to what is legal, and what is ethical, in terms of digital marketing. With a history of unsavory online activity plaguing the space, it’s not surprising that many treatment providers are skeptical about working with digital marketing platforms.
But the reality is this: about 80% of American consumers turn to the Internet to find information and reviews before making purchasing or service decisions, and that number is only growing. And, for every crooked website, there are dozens of well-intentioned, richly populated resources for those making such decisions. As professionals in this space, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on how digital platforms and marketing work, and how we can engage in those practices legally, ethically, and to the maximum benefit of those seeking addiction treatment.
Recovery Brands is publishing a series of papers to shine light on this topic, and create dialogue on the most effective way to integrate standard, traditional digital marketing practices in the addiction space. The first paper can be found here, but below, we’ve written a summary of the major ethical standards by which Recovery Brands holds itself to, and encourages others in the addiction industry to consider.
- Helping others, and doing good: Above all, the mission of our industry is to help those struggling with substance use disorders, and help positively influence the lives of others. When it comes to digital marketing, all efforts made should support this mission. The act of helping others and doing good is called beneficence, and is the cornerstone of our industry. It’s important that this value is upheld as treatment providers increasingly use the Internet to reach potential clients.
- Not harming or hurting the client: In addition to helping others, it is equally important to make sure that clients are receiving the care they need without suffering from additional harm. This is called nonmaleficence. It is important to make sure that the information presented to potential clients in digital ads or on websites don’t take advantage of their vulnerabilities by making false promises, or using bait-and-switch tactics to merely make a profit. It is also important to consider the harm addiction professionals sometimes inflict on each other. As we move forward, we encourage providers to respect and promote the success of the addiction industry as a whole, instead of participating in practices that might harm the business model or reputation of a competitor.
- Supporting the client’s choice: Ultimately, it is the client’s choice as to where he or she receives treatment. Clients have the right to make decisions for their treatment freely and without bias. This is a principle called autonomy. Clients are looking online for information and resources to make their decision, so treatment providers should make sure that online information about their care centers are accurate, helpful, and support potential clients.
As we navigate the digital space, it’s important to hold ourselves accountable. There aren’t “Internet Police” who will make sure that all of the information potential clients are receiving is accurate and fair. It’s our responsibility as industry professionals to make sure that our marketing plans, and our digital presence across all sites is an accurate representation of what we can actually provide. For Recovery Brands, that means that we have to make sure that information we share with those struggling with addiction is based on data, and our mission, the process we use to collect and present data, and the services we provide are transparently shared with the public. For addiction treatment providers, this might mean making sure that your own website and third-party websites contain correct information, and that the digital content you share with the public is honest and transparent.
Where do we go from here? Well, we’re committed to clearing up any confusion addiction treatment professionals might have about digital marketing, especially questions about search, web ads, and the role of third-party resources. Recovery Brands will be sharing more information on ethics and digital marketing practices in this series, but you can also find educational resources on our site that might help you understand and implement different digital strategies into your marketing plan.