Ethics Thought Leadership

PRSA & Page Center Survey to Examine State of Public Relations Ethics

Editor’s note: As we celebrate Public Relations Ethics Month this September, PRSA invited members of the Board of Ethics & Professional Standards (BEPS) to offer their views and thoughts on the ethical topics affecting the PR profession. Follow the blog series on PRSAY and join the national social media discussion by using the hashtag #PREthics. For a full list of Ethics Month activities visit the 2015 Ethics Month section of the PRSA site.


This month the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards together with the Arthur W. Page Center is sponsoring survey research with practitioners to better understand public relations executives’ readiness to respond to ethical issues presented in the workplace, and we need your support.

The survey continues a legacy of ethical leadership and scholarly research by PRSA. The first code of ethics was adopted by PRSA in 1950. The code was revised and updated over the next 50 years to adapt to changing industry practices. Then a new code was adopted in 2000 after focus group and survey research with our members revealed the code was “outdated, incomplete…and operational rather than aspirational” (Fitzpatrick, 2002, p. 113).

At the same time, PRSA revised its bylaws recognizing the primary duty of the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards as developing and implementing educational programs in relation to the code of ethics. Consistent with that purpose in 2002, PRSA began recognizing ethics month when its publications and chapters are encouraged to focus on ethics education.

An email invitation with a link to the online survey has been sent to a random sample of PRSA members. The survey should take only about 10-15 minutes to complete. To encourage participation, a drawing for four $50 gift cards will be offered.

[editor’s note: If you have not received an email but would still like to take the survey, please click here]

The survey includes questions to determine how familiar PRSA members are with various ethics resources provided to members, their perceptions of preparedness to provide ethics counsel, what types of ethics training members have received, their involvement in promoting their employers’ ethics programs and what they perceive as the most pressing ethical concerns facing practitioners today. The questions are based on findings from previous qualitative and quantitative research related to public relations ethics by other scholars and three studies I personally completed.

A few demographic questions are included for hypothesis testing. However, no personal identifying information will be collected through the survey such as your name or that of your employer.

PRSA will share the findings of the study with members upon completion of the study and the results will be submitted to an academic conference and journal for publication. In addition, survey participants may contact me to request a summary of the results.

Thank you in advance for supporting PRSA’s Board of Ethics & Professional Standards in our mission to provide ethics education!


Fitzpatrick, K. R. (2002). From enforcement to education: The development of PRSA’s member

code of ethics 2000. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 17(2), 111-135.

Neill, M.S. (2015) Public relations’ collaborative role in ethics and values communication, 18th annual International Public Relations Research Conference, Miami, Florida, March 4, 2015.

Neill, M.S., & Drumwright, M.E. (2012). PR professionals as organizational conscience, Journal

of Mass Media Ethics, 27 (4), 220-234.

Dr. Marlene S. Neill is an assistant professor at the Baylor University in the Department of Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Her research focuses on public relations management, ethics and integrated communication. She has published research in the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Public Relations Review and the Journal of Communication Management. She is a member of the PRSA Board of Ethics & Professional Standards. Follow Dr. Neill on Twitter @neillpr.

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Marlene Neill

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