One recurring question public relations professionals are faced with is, “Why do ethics matter?” Well, the PRSA Code of Ethics answers this question: Ethical practice is the most important obligation of a PRSA member.
When practitioners launch their careers, they know public relations is not a ‘clock in, clock out’ job. It’s a job that needs attention at all hours of the day. Similar to the work schedule, ethical work should never stop.
Kirk Hazlett, an inductee of the PRSA’s College of Fellows, said, “PRSA’s Code of Ethics provides practitioners at any level with guidance whenever they encounter a questionable situation.”
The preamble says, “The Code is designed to be a useful guide for PRSA members as they carry out their ethical responsibilities.” This sets an example for PRSA members to hold themselves to the highest ethical standards. The Code also includes the PRSA Member Statement of Professional Values, which consists of six values. These values are the fundamental beliefs that guide ethical decision-making. These values include advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty and fairness, and are incorporated into best practices for public relations professionals.
The PRSA Code Provisions of Conduct is the real focus, though. This portion of the Code focuses on real-world examples of situations professionals have faced and what the ethical route should be taken.
“The members of PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards work diligently to ensure that the Code of Ethics is current and applicable to today’s realities,” Hazlett said when asked about real-world application of the Code. “Ethical Standards Advisories provide the most current thinking on ethical issues such as social media, use of interns and native advertising, just to name a few.”
The Code of Ethics is the most widely accepted set of regulations for public relations professionals. The Code is frequently updated to reflect the ever-changing field of public relations. By referencing the Code of Ethics, a practitioner shows their practices are ethical while also being in the best interest of their client.
Andrew Young is a sophomore at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) where he serves as the public relations director of the MTSU PRSSA Chapter. He is also a member of the Advocacy Subcommittee for PRSSA National.