Each September, PRSA recognizes Ethics Month to bring increased attention to the core foundation of the communications profession. Please visit prsa.org/ethics for additional programming and ethics resources and PRSA’s social media platforms for updates throughout the month.
In the ever-evolving landscape of public relations and communications, ethical decision-making is of paramount importance. Practitioners in these professions face complex ethical dilemmas that require a solid foundation of knowledge and skills.
A recent research study published in the Journal of Media Ethics sheds light on the significant role that accreditation and certification play in enhancing professionals’ confidence and frequency of engaging in ethics counseling. This study highlights the value of the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential and similar certifications in promoting ethical practices within the profession.
The study, conducted in the fall of 2022 by Dr. Marlene S. Neill, APR, Fellow PRSA, and published in 2023 in Issue 3 of the Journal of Media Ethics, surveyed a diverse group of 314 public relations and communication professionals in the United States.
Even when controlling for age, those who were accredited or certified engaged in ethics counseling more frequently. The study aimed to explore the relationship between professional accreditation, confidence, and ethics counseling. Participants were asked about their confidence in their ethics skills and abilities, their engagement in ethics counseling and their possession of credentials such as the APR.
The study’s findings revealed a strong correlation between professional accreditation and ethics counseling. Participants who held the APR or similar credentials reported higher levels of confidence in their ethical preparation compared to those without such certifications. This increased confidence can be attributed to the rigorous training and education on ethics and law required to obtain these credentials.
Furthermore, professionals with accreditation were more likely to engage in ethics counseling. This finding suggests that individuals who have undergone the Accreditation process are not only better equipped to make ethical decisions themselves but are also more inclined to guide and counsel others in ethical matters. This highlights the positive impact that accreditation can have on the overall ethical climate within the public relations and communications profession.
The value of APR for ethics training
The APR credential, offered by the Universal Accreditation Board, is a widely recognized certification that signifies a high level of expertise and ethical commitment in the field of public relations.
The rigorous APR process includes a comprehensive examination, a portfolio review, and a commitment to ongoing professional development. In addition, those who have obtained their APR credential are required to complete regular continuing education requirements including ethics training.
The study’s findings underscore the value of the APR credential as a means of enhancing professionals’ ethical preparedness. By obtaining the APR, practitioners gain a deeper understanding of ethical principles, codes of conduct and best practices in public relations. This knowledge equips them to navigate complex ethical dilemmas with confidence and integrity.
Moreover, the APR credential serves as a mark of distinction and credibility within the profession. Clients, employers and colleagues recognize the commitment to ethical standards that the APR represents. This recognition can open doors to new opportunities and enhance professional credibility.
The implications for the profession
The research study’s findings have significant implications for PR and communications professionals, as well as for organizations and institutions within the industry. Encouraging professionals to pursue Accreditation in Public Relations can foster a culture of ethical decision-making and responsible communication practices.
Organizations can support their employees’ pursuit of the APR by providing resources, mentorship programs and financial assistance. By investing in the professional development of their staff, organizations demonstrate their commitment to ethical practices and position themselves as leaders in the industry.
Ethical decision-making and counseling are critical aspects of the PR and communications professions. The research study discussed in this article highlights the positive impact that professional accreditation, such as the APR, can have on professionals’ confidence in their ethical preparation and their engagement in ethics counseling.
The APR credential serves as a valuable tool for enhancing ethical practices within the profession, promoting credibility and fostering a culture of responsible communication.
By recognizing the value of Accreditation in Public Relations and supporting professionals in their pursuit of credentials, the PR and communications profession can continue to uphold the highest ethical standards and build trust with stakeholders.
Chris Gent, APR, currently serves as head of strategic communications and public affairs for Georgia-Pacific in Palatka, Fla. He previously served as vice president of corporate communications for Kissimmee Utility Authority. He is a past president of the Florida Public Relations Association and serves as a member of the Universal Accreditation Board, a diverse group of educators, military public affairs personnel and public relations professionals who oversee the national accreditation program for PR practitioners.
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