Make Ethics in PR a Reality, Not an Oxymoron


Any profession labeled with descriptions like “spin doctors” and “flacks” is going to find itself under the microscope of critical public scrutiny. As a result, public relations practitioners must adhere to the highest ethical standards in order to demonstrate our credibility as honest and trustworthy professionals. This month, Public Relations Society of America and its student arm, PRSSA, are leading a commendable initiative that underscores the importance of high ethical standards in our profession.

While most of us feel we’re ethical, engaging in some of the PRSA and PRSSA activities this month provide a worthwhile refresher. If you do nothing else, please take five minutes to read or re-read PRSA’s Code of Ethics. “The Code of Ethics is a great resource that all students should learn to use sooner rather than later,” says Eric Winkfield, PRSSA’s vice president of advocacy. “It provides information for addressing ethical dilemmas that will allow future PR practitioners to make informed decisions in situations that may arise at school, in internships and even in everyday life.”

After reading the Code of Ethics, you may want to participate in some of the other activities that include a Google+ Hangout for new pros this coming Thursday at 9 p.m. ET and PRSSA’s Twitter chat on ethics, disclosure and transparency (#PRSSAethics) from 9 to 10 p.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 18.

Many PRSSA chapters have planned ethics programs this month. One creative effort underway at Cal State Fullerton consists of a “mini-challenge” each week that engages PRSSA members in ethics discussions.

Emphasizing the importance of understanding and adhering to high ethical standards, PRSSA National Chair Heather Harder says, “It is imperative public relations professionals follow the PRSA Code of Ethics or a similar industry code. If you fail to follow a code of ethics, it’s not just your personal or company reputation that’s at stake; it affects the entire industry.”

Check out the full list of Ethics month programs and recommit to the highest ethical standards. The future of our profession depends on it.

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