Ethics Matter: Ethics and Public Relations

What does the ethical practice of public relations mean? What are examples of ethics in public relations? How can any public relations professional make sure they are following best practices?

Clear guidelines and ethical standards are important to the work of any public relations professional. As Ethics Chair for PRSA San Diego-Imperial County, I’d like to kickstart 2022 by covering some of the basics in my new monthly column.

I’m also including a link to a very thought-provoking PRSA Ethics Quotient Quiz (scroll to the end if you want to get there quick).

In the coming months, I’ll cover a variety of topics while sharing great resources and additional information on the ethical practice of public relations. This will hopefully boost your confidence and help you navigate confusing gray areas or situations that make you hesitate.

Here’s a few important facts to review and keep in mind. Remember, you can always bookmark this page for reference.

Facts and Ethics for PR Professionals

All PRSA members pledge adherence to the Code of Ethics. Ethical conduct is the most important obligation of a PRSA member. It’s part of what sets PRSA members apart from other PR professionals. For your convenience, here’s the link to the Code of Ethics.

  1. Our 12 Point Code of Ethics are made up of:
    • Six PRSA Values: Advocacy; Honesty; Expertise; Independence; Loyalty; Faithfulness
    • Six Provisions of Conduct: Free Flow of Information; Competition; Disclosure of Information; Safeguarding Confidences; Conflicts of Interest; Enhancing the Profession
  2. As issues arise relating to the practice of communications, the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) provides guidance within the framework of the Code.
  3. The PRSA Board of Directors then announces these guidelines through an Ethical Standard Advisory (ESA). ESAs are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.
  4. Please consult an attorney to obtain legal advice regarding your specific situation. Ethical Standard Advisory ESA-17 E.

Resources

  1. Here is a very helpful link to the Ethics Library on the national PRSA website. You will find a wide variety of papers and presentations on how to navigate complicated situations. The library also features a series of 60-minute webinars covering best practices and experiences that some of our members share with great insight. Don’t forget to first sign in as a member on the site!
  2. Discussion, blog, and another library of resources. Here’s another important resource in the national PRSA website—the Ethics Community.
  3. There are more than 200 PRSA members that are part of the “Ethics Community.” What a great way to meet like-minded colleagues across the country!

Ethics Quiz

Here’s the PRSA Ethics Quotient Quiz I mentioned earlier, written by Patricia Whalen, APR, Fellow PRSA. Respond to situations then see sources and reasoning behind each answer. It’s really helpful! I suggest you share it with all of your coworkers, too. You may be surprised by what you really know or don’t know!

Questions or Suggestions?

I look forward to sharing more content, offering guidance, solutions and resources on ethics in public relations in the months to come. If you have questions or ideas of topics I should cover in this column, feel free to email me at juliesmithtaylor@gmail.com.

About the AuthorAn elevated view of two people examining paper work. They hold penciles and only their hands are visible.

Julie Smith-Taylor, APR is the owner and founder of Taylor PR Strategies. She earned her accreditation in public relations in 1993. This early achievement opened the door to serving our PRSA chapter in a wide variety of board positions and committees through the years. She also served as the 2013 Chair of PRSA’s Western District in 2013 and Chaired the Opening Night Reception Committee in 2019 for PRSA’s ICON held in San Diego. 

Not a member? Find out how to join PRSA today, or take a look at our upcoming events.

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