20 Top PR Pros Share the Ethical Advice That’s Guided Them Through Their Careers

Editor’s note: To promote the Global Alliance’s first Global Ethics Month, PRsay is posting wisdom from thought leaders on the subject to help showcase that #EthicsMatter.

During interviews for my blog and podcast, I always ask my guests the following: What is the best ethics advice they’ve received in their career? Here are some of the top answers I’ve received:

  1. Garland T. Stansell, APR: “I go back to an adjunct professor from my days at UAB. He worked for Bell South when it was Ma Bell before the divestiture. I remember him saying, and I’ve shared this with students since that time myself: Do what’s right, sleep at night.”
  2. Joe Cohen, APR: “When in doubt, disclose.”
  3. Mike McDougall, APR, Fellow PRSA: “Tell the truth and you’ll never have to remember what you said.”
  4. Elise Mitchell, APR, Fellow PRSA: “How would I feel if the people that I respect the most in my life knew about this decision or about this action?”
  5. Felicia Blow, APR: “Be honest at all times. If you don’t know something, don’t embellish for the sake of others and make up something.”
  6. Stacey Smith: “We are not only there for our organizations, but we are there for society as professionals.”
  7. Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA: “Ethics is just this: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  8. Beth Monaghan: “Don’t ask yourself what some other leader or CEO would do in this situation. You should ask yourself first and foremost because you are the one who has access to all of the information and you are the one who has to close their own eyes at night.”
  9. Marlene Neill, Ph.D, APR: “It is important to protect our credibility. Once you damage it, it’s very difficult to ever regain that trust.”
  10. Johna Burke: “Listen with intent to understand and then act.”
  11. Deb Silverman, APR, Fellow PRSA: “Be true to the values with which you were raised.” 
  12. Michael Lasky: “Would you be comfortable if what you were doing was appearing on the front page of The New York Times, assuming it was newsworthy?”
  13. David Herrick: “If you say you’re going to do something, then you follow through. You do the right thing, even if it’s painful. A handshake is a handshake, a promise is a promise, and your word is your bond.”
  14. Matt Kucharski: “If you can explain it to your mom and justify it to your mom, you’re probably on pretty good ethical ground.”
  15. Lou Capozzi: “Be a skeptic.”
  16. Angela Sinickas: “If feel something isn’t right, it probably is not right.”
  17. Fred Cook: “Tell the truth.”
  18. Darryl Salerno: “You have to have standards of behavior, and you have to always act within those standards of behavior, regardless of the outcome.”
  19. Brandi Boatner: “The only way is the ethical way.”
  20. Marisa Valbona: “Nothing the truth can reveal will ever be worse than being caught in a lie.”

Mark W. McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA, was the 2016 National Chair of PRSA and is the founder of He can be reached on Twitter @McClennan.

About the author

Mark W. McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA


  • Ethical decisions are the only decisions PR professionals should ever make. I really enjoyed reading the different perspectives on ethical practices from such accomplished individuals. This is a topic that will always be relevant and important.

    -Katie Poedtke, writer/editor for Platform Magazine

  • Hello Mark W. McClennan,
    I loved and enjoyed reading the different perspectives on ethical practices from such accomplished individuals. reading a topic like this will always be relevant and important.

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