What do PR Majors Need to Know About Ethics?

Have you ever heard of a public relations professional being referred to as a “spin master?” Or what about the field of public relations being associated with being untruthful? As a young professional in the field of PR, these stereotypes are one of my biggest pet peeves. But this leads to the question: what do those in the public relations major need to know about ethics?

According to the Certificate in Public Relations Study Guide (CPPR), which is an exam seniors in college can take six months before or after graduation that imitates the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) exam professionals can take, there are some key things PR professionals should know and practice. These include:

  • Act in the public interest
  • Ensure accuracy and truth
  • Do not disseminate false and misleading information
  • Correct all errors, even if accidental, publicly
  • Deal fairly with ALL publics
  • Respect yourself and others
  • Leave proprietary materials related to your position behind if you move to a new position

The items listed above are the general principles for pubic relations professionals, but there are also some more specific guidelines set for how to practice ethically in our profession as well:

  • Accurately define what your PR strategy is and your tactics to accomplish it
  • Don’t guarantee results you cannot control or that are above your control
  • Maintain integrity with all communication channels-be transparent
  • Safeguard confidences and build trust
  • Do not damage others’ reputations
  • Avoid conflicts of interest

One of the most important items listed in this section of the study guide you NEED to know as a public relations professional is the decision making process. Here are the steps below:

  1. Define the specific ethical issue or conflict
  2. Identify internal and external factors that may influence your decision
  3. Identify the key values
  4. Identify the audiences who will be affected by the decision and your obligations to each
  5. Select ethical principles to guide your decision-making process
  6. Make your decision, and justify it

If you practice the following items above and stay knowledgable of them (as well as the pillars of PRSA, refer to previous blog on ethics), you will have a solid foundation to build more ethical principles upon throughout your profession.


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