As many industries have had to adapt and make adjustments and new regulations during the last three years of economic challenges. Scandals and questionable practices have made headlines at the executive level of numerous corporations and among large and small public relations agencies across the country.

With so much information constantly moving at a rapid, real-time pace and the demand from stakeholders and the public to be honest and transparent, upholding ethics and best practices standards has never been more essential for public relations practitioners in all sectors than in today’s tenuous business climate.

The practice of public relations can present unique and challenging ethical issues. At the same time, protecting integrity and the public trust are fundamental to the profession’s role and reputation. Bottom line, successful public relations hinges on the ethics of its practitioners.

To help members navigate ethics principles and applications, PRSA maintains a Code of Ethics, created and maintained by the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS). This code sets out the guidelines built on core fundamental values such as advocacy, honesty, loyalty, professional development and objectivity structure ethical practice and interaction with clients and the public.

Translating values into principles of ethical practice, the code advises professionals to:

  • Protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information.
  • Foster informed decision making through open communication.
  • Protect confidential and private information.
  • Promote healthy and fair competition among professionals.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Work to strengthen the public’s trust in the profession.

PRSA Decision-Making Guidelines

Below are some general guidelines provided by PRSA for members to consider and assess when faced with ethics challenges or situations with their clients and organizations.

  • Define the specific ethical issues or conflicts that are present or may be emerging.
  • Identify internal and external factors (i.e., legal, political, social, economic) that may influence the decisions that need to be made or the parties involved.
  • Identify the key values at play in the situation.
  • Identify the parties who will be affected by the decisions made and define the public relations professional’s obligation to each relevant stakeholder.
  • Select ethical principles to guide the decision-making process.
  • Make the necessary decisions and justify the reasoning, planning and impact on the parties involved.

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