Ethics: Making It Part of Your Core Culture

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Each September, PRSA recognizes Public Relations Ethics Month, supported by programs presented by the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS). This year’s theme, Public Relations Ethics: Strengthening Our Core, guides a special focus on the six core values highlighted in the PRSA Code of Ethics. Please join the discussion through blog posts, webinars and Twitter Chats (#PREthics) scheduled throughout the month of September and consider the content a catalyst for integrating ethics and ethical practice into your daily communication activities.

There may be several reasons a business thrives decade after decade, but at the very core is a strong culture steeped in high ethical expectations. This is one commonality that I have found to be true in my 30+ years of providing counsel to small businesses and associations.

I believe that’s because ethics comes from the very core of the person faced with a right or wrong decision. It comes from an individual’s values and moral judgment. All kinds of decisions are made daily by single employees or groups. Whichever it is, they often are influenced by the culture of the company in how they decide to handle an ethical dilemma.

We often think of ethical decisions in terms of extreme egregious acts, when in fact we face dozens of decisions in our daily work that are quite small on that scale, yet set the ethical tone of the culture by how they are resolved.

In my work with a family-owned plumbing company, Applewood Plumbing Heating & Electric, ethics has held steadfast in all their dealings with customers, employees and vendors. It stems from the very top — the owner, John Ward, who demands everyone “do the right thing” and uphold the highest ethical standards in all the work they do.

According to Ward, it is how trust is won and kept. Given their 44-year success story (and still going) it’s hard to argue his mantra.

Like PRSA, Applewood Plumbing also abides by a Code of Ethics. A code ensures there isn’t any ambiguity or question about how to approach a problem. This is the foundation that outlines how to address every situation, and how professional standards are upheld.

PRSA’s Code of Ethics works the same way. As members, we have a basis for our behavior and the organizations we counsel. We should all aspire to uphold its tenets with the highest regard and in every situation. This is a resource for young professionals embarking on their careers and for seasoned veterans who may need to revisit it as new challenges arise in their workplaces.

Take some time during Ethics Month to review PRSA’s Code of Ethics. As communicators, we must be the voice of conscience for the companies, agencies, associations and government entities where we work. As PR professionals, we can assess the culture, the actions and the outcomes in a way no other function performs within business.

Reputation Management may seem like a buzzword, but this is where the heart of ethics and public relations intersect. Like an individual, a strong reputation is a company’s prized asset. It takes far longer to rebuild a positive one once it is lost. It is in our own hands whether we maintain a strong ethical reputation, as no one can take that away from an individual or company unless they allow it to happen. Let PRSA’s Code of Ethics be your trusted guide.

Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the 2017 PRSA National Chair. She believes we all must serve as a voice of conscience for our companies. PRSA’s Code of Ethics serves as a guide and compass for serving in that leadership and counseling role wherever you may be in your career journey.

About the author

Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA

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