Ethical SePtembeR

      38 Comments on Ethical SePtembeR

September is Ethics Month.

Each year, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) focuses its programs and publications on the six core values highlighted in its Code of Ethics while in public relations classrooms, professors and instructors reinforce the importance of truth, trust and transparency in the PR profession.

James Lukaszewski

In September’s Public Relations Tactics, PRSA’s informative monthly newsletter, PR veteran James Lukaszewski writes about how public relations practitioners must become their colleagues’ advisers and provide a strong moral voice when questionable decisions are being made. Lukaszewski suggests that first we have to define our own values: “Overlay the concept of ideal behavior and you can begin every day and every decision by asking yourself: 1) Is this ideal behavior? 2) Is this what I truly believe in? 3) Is it the truth? 4) How do we get to ideal behavior? 5) What if we can’t?” He talks about the importance of having a “personal core value approach” that’s impactful and serves to model ethical judgement for others.

Here are the code’s six core values:

Advocacy — We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts, and viewpoints to aid informed public debate.

Honesty — We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.

Expertise — We acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience. We advance the profession through continued professional development, research, and education. We build mutual understanding, credibility, and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.

Independence — We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions.

Loyalty — We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.

Fairness — We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public. We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression.

Take the time to learn PRSA’s Code of Ethics because to truly be successful in PR, we all need to be strategic, effective and above all, ethical. Your thoughts?

38 thoughts on “Ethical SePtembeR

  1. Jazmin Quinci

    This speaks to me on such a personal level. I was reluctant to sign-up for a masters in public relations. I didn’t know much about the field aside from undergraduate courses taken in Mass Communications. The focus was on media and how phenomena are under or over reported, how local news engages in fear mongering and so on. This was the extent of my academic studies. I knew the profession involved media relations, image management and corporate communications but I still didn’t have the crux of it.

    Then I read more about public relations and was excited about the various job and positions. Yet, I remained skeptical thru my first semester and questioned whether or not public relations was a journalistic form of marketing until I took the class about ethics where we learned, “The Ten Commandments” of public relations. Finally, I felt settled with my choice and it felt right.

    Professor Morosoff, this article sets my mind at ease, and I think I can finally accept my past decision to forgo a career opportunity that challenged my ethics and values. I appreciate the ethical considerations practitioners should be mindful of when doing their jobs. I can also totally appreciate waking up every morning, mentally checking-in to consider whether my choices are in-line with doing what’s right. I never want to cause harm and compromise my integrity. This learning experience taught me if a job or task makes me question my personal values, it’s not the right fit and it’s ok to walk away.

  2. Patrick Picarsic

    Spicer was the MC at a burlesque show. Its a natural progression to go to Hollywood. The American people made the ethics decision when they elected this administration.

  3. Justin Ayala

    I agree that these six core values are very important in the field of Public Relations. As communicators for clients and to the public, we must hold ourselves responsible for the methods that are used. These values can be applied to other fields of work as well because they are overall good qualities to have as an employee. Today in our society, especially after Trump took the presidency, the personal beliefs and morals of people in this country are being questioned. With all the ignorant statements Trump has publicly announced whether on air or on twitter, many citizens are puzzled by the fact that he’s in office running our government. In order for change to take place, we have to fight for what we believe based on our personal core values as well so this theme of code of ethics is very contemporary to today’s current events.

  4. Anthony Ferrufino

    Ethics is by far the most important factor to the continuance of our profession. In an era where the media and PR professionals are labeled as “Fake News” it is imperative that we conduct ourselves ethically to maintain the credibility of our profession. The six core values ensure that we as PR professionals not only act in a matter that benefits one issues or organization but rather ensures that we benefit the profession as a whole. At times when we find ourselves in situations that might be ethically questionable it is important to remember that our actions have greater implications to the PR field as a whole.

  5. Forrest Gitlin

    I find that public relations can sometime face a dilemma between conflicting obligations to advocacy/loyalty and honesty/fairness. When a client present a problem of their own creation and asks for a PR professional to, “make it go away,” the obligation to serve the client can come in conflict with the obligation to the truth. I think it is in these situations that some PR professionals make unwise decisions, casting a cloud over their own reputation and that the of profession as a whole.
    In my opinion, the truth and our ability to convey the truth must always supersede requests from clients to, “make it go away.” It is always in our best interest to conduct business ethically.

  6. Kerry Lowery

    After rereading the six core values for Public Relations I would have to say that I still believe these values need to be present in everything a publicist says and does. No matter who the client is we as publicists and future publicists must always strive to follow the core values. I’m sure in today’s world you can find some examples of companies that don’t follow the six core values or disregard most of them entirely, these are examples we should be using of what not to do in our careers and what mistakes to avoid.

  7. Katrina Tacconelli

    I do believe this idea is very interesting. I like the 6 core concepts. A question I do have that as a public relations person, you may face issues that you don’t believe in but it is your job to represent the company in the best light possible. How do you keep neutral and not be bias on certain aspects? We will all have to face certain issues that we don’t believe in but it is your job to defend the company even if you don’t believe in a certain aspect.

  8. olivia abbatiello

    One of my favorite PR classes I ever took was my PR ethics class during undergrad. It was so interesting to learn the history of and how to apply the ethical practice of public relations. These six core values are so important to the PR professional and industry as a whole, especially considering the stereotype of untruthfulness that PR is sometimes subject to. As an aspiring public relations professional, I am grateful for the core ethical values and look forward to analyzing and applying them during my career.

  9. Maya Devereaux

    Reading through the code’s values reminded me of a journalism ethics course I took as an undergrad. Having read through the SPJ’s code, I see how similar some of their principles are, yet at the same time also different. Both fields firmly rest on pillars of advocacy, honesty, integrity, and degrees of fairness. Yet at the same time, each field serves different subjects. Journalists represent public interest while public relations practitioners serve their clients or organizations.

    1. Summer

      Reading through these core values makes me realize that many big name companies don’t pratice these core values. A prime example of this is Pepsi. After the controversial ad they released featuring Kendall Jenner, Pepsi realeased a luke warm apology. They didn’t address the population of people they offended, but rather apologized to Kendall Jenner for being in the position she was in. They werent accountable for their actions. Their apology should have addressed the African American community specifically and taken some steps to rectify the issue. If companies followed these codified values more closely we would see a decrease in culturally insenstivity in marketing strategies.

  10. Patrick Picarsic

    In an era of weaponized PR, I’d be curious to see the “Dark Side’s” code of conduct… or what kind of techniques are being used by our government to undermine global adversaries.

  11. Jazmin Corrine

    Brilliant idea! Public relations (PR) practitioners should have codified rules of conduct like journalists, lawyers and doctors. PR professsionals work for high profile individuals, publications, corporation(s) and government administrations. They control the flow of information and are often privy to sensitive data. Mismanagement of information can have severe consequences like ruining reputations thus, causing irreparable damage. Internal sources leaking information to the press is an old phenomena. Breaking confidentiality is unethical. What calls to mind are the Ten Commandments of Public Relations which includes, “Do no harm”. Therefore core values must be outlined so there is no confusion of expectations for proper conduct and such necessity within the field must be explained and repeated to practitioners. Accountability must exist for those who fail to honor values.

    PR professionals often ask the question, “What are the core values the public should know?” These values play a pivotal role in developing campaigns and are often part of specially crafted messaging. Yet how can PR practitioners honestly discuss core values, if the profession lacks it’s own Code of Ethics and/or guidelines for conduct? Moreover how can the PR field get from under common misconceptions that PR personnel manipulate and falsify information to protect their clients, and will ignore ethical standards (i.e. telling the truth and encouraging transparency) during a crisis. Codes of conduct hold professionals to a higher standard.

    Clearly the PR field is evolving. Maybe the “spin doctor” ideology that many associate with the practice of public relations will come to an end or at the very least skeptics will take the time to investigate the truth and see that transparency is not only promoted to clients but practitioners also embrace ethical behavior.

  12. Jessica Gilmour

    In all professions it is important to have a strong moral compass and demonstrate ethical behavior. In public professions like PR it is especially crucial to act ethically to obtain respectable credibility. The six core values are important tools for any public figure or public relations representative.

  13. Matt Howard

    I think it’s imperative that the six core values be implemented in the practice of PR. PR is often the scapegoat in conversations about the media and press. It is easy for people to dismiss PR and claim that those who work in the industry do nothing but spin information to benefit themselves. In order to combat that negative image, it is important to follow core values to ensure that we are not “proving the stereotype.” Practicing ethical public relations and holding each other accountable is a great way to show that PR is a tool for good and not what many people think it is.

  14. John Grillea

    The professionals in our department have certainly emphasized these core values within our classes! It’s our job to follow these values and practice PR with honesty in our work. After all, reputation is everything for a business. As public relations practitioners, it’s our duty to maintain and build on a positive reputation for our job/clients. These core values are something every PR practitioner should take a look at and remind themselves to always follow.

  15. Gianna Losquadro

    To have a code of ethics in the world of public relations is imperative. Without it, a public relations practitioner wouldn’t be able to effectively do their job. While all of the codes are essential and should be strived for, I often see many professionals not being able to execute all of the core values. Out of all six codes, honesty and loyalty jumped out at me the most. Both values go hand in hand. But I think it’s extremely hard to be able to be transparent and fair to competitors, peers, and the general public, while being completely honest. You’re being loyal to your brand/client, but are you being loyal to everyone else? It’s a very fine line and frankly I don’t think you can have it all. At the end of the day, as long as you’re making every effort to uphold yourself to those values, you’re doing your best as a PR practitioner.

  16. Jessica Sodowich

    Lukaszewski’s “personal core value” approach is what I believe everyone should adhere to considering any ethical decisions they have to make within their everyday lives. Referring to PRSA’s Code of Ethics and it’s six core values, they not only make me proud to be pursuing PR, but I almost wish there were consequences or some kind of punishment for those practitioners who stray from the ethical high road that I hold the public relations industry to.

  17. Jessica Dillard

    Ethics is very important, due to the fact that society has the idea PR pros often “smudge”, or dare I say “spin” the truth, which is not the case. As PR pros we must do everything in our power to uphold our agency and clients to the highest ethical standards. On this topic, one industry that comes to mind are beauty companies, who send out gift baskets with products to bloggers/influencers to garner coverage, many of whom do not disclose to their viewers/readers the product was “gifted”. I believe it is unethical for bloggers/influencers to not disclose this information, however, it is on the company/agency to make it mandatory that influencers inform their readers the products were “gifted”. Additionally, if a company sponsored a post for an influencer, that needs to be communicated to their community, as well. In this case, the company and the influencer need to be fair and honest to consumers, to build trust. As a result of some influencers have refrained from doing all sponsored content and no longer accept free items from companies.

    These six core values are well thought out and should be applied every day in the PR field. We must continually remind our colleagues of these as well.

  18. Aisha Buchanan

    Yes, those six core values are valuable and needed in the PR profession. Companies and their PR specialist should work together to adhere to these values and carry them out on a day to day basis , in and outside the office.

  19. Shayla Sales

    PRSA’s core values are essential to learn and practice for multiple reasons, one main reason being the high chance of losing credibility if caught telling everything but the truth. It is also important that the values are being taught to undergraduates, like myself, who are new to the field so that mistakes during our career can be avoided. The questions that James Lukaszewski poses are very critical when it comes to representing a brand ethically, in instances of benefice or crisis. If the values don’t align with your own, ultimately they don’t align with those of PRSA’s ethics. Remaining transparent is the best and ethical way to maintain a PR career and credibility.

  20. Derrica Newman

    I do agree that a code of ethics should be a part of PR and even a part of one’s everyday life. If any company is unethical this can damage their reputation for the worst. It would make other people not want to do business with them. Having these values in the back of your mind while working with a client would be the best for yourself as well as the company you represent. The six core values are all values that we have to follow when working for any company, but what happens if you don’t necessarily agree/believe with something that your client represents? How would you go about telling your client that you cannot work on this project? I feel as though that would make the sixth value hard for oneself.

  21. Matt Leong

    Having a code of ethics for PR is extremely important. It’s in the PR director’s best interest to represent their clients in a respectable light all while remaining professional. Professionalism allows for the statements put out to the public to be taken seriously. Ethically, the truth should be delivered, and PR directors should be able to deliver the most truthful information possible.

  22. OLewis

    Public relations often carries a stigma of secrecy and insincerity that damages the business. The Code of Ethics is incredibly important, in part for this reason. Aside from the obvious case for moral practice, following the code can help us all to improve the overall reputation of the business. What complicates this practice is that the interests of a business may not always align with the well-being of a public. Oil companies or other entities affiliated with the “sin industries” need PR professionals and firms to represent them in private and public domains.

    The tenet of loyalty, “We are faithful to those we represent while honoring our obligation to the public”, can become obscured when deciding whether to protect a company or engage the public honestly. By example, Exxon Mobil obscures internal research that could harm its business. If I were to represent Exxon Mobil, how would I engage the public and the fourth estate in honest communication about it. These pockets and scenarios are where the Code of Ethics becomes obscured.

    I do wish there would be a more specific code that would address some of these cases. That might bring a few firms less business, however.

  23. Chris Bounds

    In reading this post I felt that question 3 truly stuck out to me. What is it that one believe in? This question is not only for PR, but for all walks of life professional or nonprofessional. One can not effectively choose the right ways to proceed in the career of PR is they are not soundly grounded first. I believe that all of these other question in some way rely on the this one truth. How is one suppose to be loyal, or be honest if they themselves do not even know what honesty and loyalty means to them? The answer is that they can not.

  24. Aliyah Harith-Bey

    There is no doubt that in order to practice good PR, we must practice ethical PR. It’s imperative to know and implement these values in our daily professional lives as PR practitioners; however, I think a problem that often arises is the clash between the opinion of our client, boss or CEO, and our ethics. What do you do when the ultimate decision maker insists on a PR strategy that you know would be unethical? Do you resist and/or refuse? Do you quit? At the end of the day, we can only advise the decision maker(s) and act with his or her approval. If he/she refuses to comply with the ethics of good PR, how do you reconcile your obligation to your employer, the public and your values?

  25. Steven Freitag

    Ethics is an important part of PR, and all of the good companies and agencies would agree with that. Without a PR firm being ethical, it gives the client they represent a bad image. Hopefully some aspects of the six core values don’t interfere with the ethical side of PR. Being loyal to a client could affect the honestly and information that the PR agency uses. They may omit information because the company may think that bit of information will make it look bad in the public’s eye, but lying to the public is what will make them look bad. Loyalty and honesty may interfere with one another, but in all good cases of PR, it will go hand-in-hand.

  26. Ian Budding

    I feel that second question we have to ask ourselves when assessing the personal core value approach is very important. “Is this what I truly believe in?” If you’re not representing something that has any meaning to you or you’re not a firm believer in the overall goal of the organization you represent, you’ve probably put yourself in a position where you’re not going to feel like you’re doing what you should be doing with your career. When it comes to the six core values of the code, Fairness is one of the most vital aspects. Treating anybody you represent, as well as the public, fairly is what every organization should strive to accomplish. All too often, companies will do and implement things for their own self-interest and hurt their public image. I feel the public relations department is left to handle and face the backlash from the media and general public. To treat them fairly when the organization you represent hasn’t seems like a very difficult thing to do.

  27. Paula Chirinos

    I can agree that having a moral code of ethics is important for the field of PR and can be very effective but I agree with Jeff’s comment in regards to how some values can conflict with others. It is of course hard to manage being a PR specialist for say, a tobacco company, since certain tactics must be employed to keep up a demand for their products. In this instance, would the PR specialist have a different set of morals or do they follow the same ones set by the PRSA? Ideally, all PR people would follow one code of ethics but in certain businesses, I feel like this might not be the case. I personally, as a consumer and member of the public, have a hard time believing people like this have their best interests in the public’s well-being over the profit that their companies make. Tobacco of course does not benefit the public financial-wise or health-wise so there is obviously a lack of loyalty towards the public here.

  28. McKenna Heim

    When people ask me what Public Relations really is, which is FREQUENTLY because most people don’t really have the best idea of what we do within this vast business, the first thing I say is advocacy, so I found it interesting that it was the first value in the code of ethics for the PRSA. I don’t believe you could be successful here without focusing on honesty, loyalty, advocacy, fairness, expertise, and independence. Transparency is difficult to master as well and that’s why expertise really does mean a lot within an ethical standard.

  29. Raffaella Tonani

    At the beginning of the post, it says “The PRSA focuses on… the six core values highlighted in its Code of Ethics while professors and instructors reinforce the importance of truth, trust and transparency” I think that truth, trust and transparency are linked to the core values in the Code of Ethics.

    For example, to represent someone (Advocacy) you need to TRUST that someone to see if your personal values are aligned with your employer in order to promote that trust to clients, only possible when you know the company (Expertise) We are loyal to our organization but we must be loyal to the public as well. We are independent, so if something were to happen and it is our fault, we will be transparent/upfront about it and solve it. If our organization is part of a debate, we should listen to opinions, even if they are from competitors and they are negative, it is only respectful and fair to listen to feedback. That is fair to the clients and employers since we will use that feedback or any comment whether it is directed at you or not, to improve. When listening to these comments and sharing it with employers and clients, we are being transparent, truthful and building a symmetrical communication.

    At its core is the following value: Honesty. I think honesty encompasses and allows every others value to exist, that includes truth, trust and transparency because as long as you are honest people will trust your work and your judgement. More importantly if you are honest with yourself and like James Lukaszewski suggests are clear and confident about your personal values, you will promote that in your way of management. Also, be familiar with the code of ethics of your field (if it has one). To be successful in any career one needs to be ethical. During crisis management or desperate times, it might be easier to spin situations or not be upfront about mistakes, but through research we should be prepared for what might come, being strategic and productive/effective is not exclusive of maintaining one’s ethics.

  30. Jeff Werner

    So the code of ethics for public relations is similar to that of the code of ethics for journalism. The only value I am having an issue with is Loyalty. I feel like loyalty is one of those values that create a conflict with ethics. It’s hard to be loyal to one person and be honest with the public. Maybe you can be honest and be loyal to the public, but I don’t think you can be loyal to a single company or person and be honest with the public. I always felt, as a journalist, that honesty comes before loyalty, and if there can be a balance, then it’s perfect. But most of the time it isn’t, and I feel you need to advanced the public’s best interest rather than an individual’s personal gain.

  31. Claudia Barnard

    In order to be successful in the PR field, and remain morally correct, the six core values (advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, fairness) are essential. I believe that remaining ethically correct will make a person more successful than someone who lies and cheats. Asking yourself if what you are about to do is ideal behavior is critical because then there is nothing to regret because you did what was ethically right and did not go against the core values.

  32. Joe Barone

    Learning the Journalism Code of Ethics as an undergraduate made me understand how important it is for professional journalists to do their job in the right way – ethical and factual. Learning the PRSA’s Code of Ethics is the same. It goes without saying, in any job you do, there should be a code of ethics that provide a foundation for doing things the right way. I’d be lost without them. In articles I’ve written in the past, I’ve had to go through them, just to make sure what I was doing was correct.
    As far as truth, trust and transparency goes in the PR world, it is critical. It all goes hand-in-hand. It is important to be truthful in every situation because that establishes trust in your firm/company with your clients. Also, being truthful means being transparent – essentially, you’re open and you’ll lay out all the facts with your clients. The PRSA’s Code of Ethics teaches PR reps how to do their work in a strategic, effective and ethical way.

  33. Gregory Liodice

    I completely agree with the other commenters that the six core values in the PRSA’s Code of Ethics are crucial in moving forward in the Public Relations field, or any field for that matter. It’s important to carry on in the professional field with all of those values because people will start to take notice and reputations get built off of that.

  34. Rosaria Rielly

    One of the differences in the fundamentals between Public Relations and that of journalism is that those practicing Public Relations must value advocacy while journalists must value objectivity. These six core values in the PRSA Code of Ethics (advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, and fairness) are crucial for good PR professionals as they must communicate themselves in the way they want their clients to view them as. The means of effective communication resonates in a better success rate with their organization and presentation of information towards persuading their client and keeping a good name for themselves and their company.

  35. Kristina Barry

    I think that the six core values listen above are vital when it comes to communication. For a PR professional it is our job to follow all six. Without following those simple guidelines we are doing the public a misfortune, we are guiding them in the wrong direction and essentially misinforming. We must be transparent in order to give them the truth about a company or organization. These core values are what is morally right and it our job to follow the guidelines in order to keep the “good name” for our organization and public relations.

  36. Abby meirs

    I believe that PRSA’s code of Ethics is an essential need for every Public Relations Major to know. Knowing this crucial information can help lead you into making ethical and morally right decisions when writing and spreading a message to the public. Public Relations messages should not be used as a method to promote and spread lies among the public.

  37. Unice Kim

    I believe that these six core values are essential in Public Relations. It is important to be advocate, honest, expert, independent, loyal, and fair. In Public Relations in is important to be transparent, meaning you are clear and are hiding nothing. If you follow these core values then you will have a healthy PR.


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