Ethical Practice Every Day: Who Cares…and Why?

Photo of an alarm clock.

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.

Once a year like clockwork September rolls around and PRSA announces a plethora of activities designed to educate, inform and inspire members and non-members about the role that ethics plays in the conduct of our profession. This year’s theme is “Ethics Every Day,” and there will be something of interest and use for everyone!

Ethics should be an everyday reality for all of us. It should be intuitive and proactive, not haphazard and reactive. While ethical practice most assuredly is not a “once-a-year” thing like an annual physical exam that helps make sure you’re in reasonably good health and identifies potential problems, this concentrated focus on ethics once a year serves a valuable purpose.

Why? Because the public relations field, like many other professions, is still regarded with skepticism by some based on the all-too-public shenanigans of a few of our community who refer to themselves as “public relations professionals” but whose credentials are, at best, spotty. And their actions are taken to represent the way in which we all operate.

In addition, the tools used by public relations professionals in the conduct of their services to clients or employers are increasing exponentially. For those of us who have been around long enough to remember the advent of that remarkable time-saving gizmo called a “facsimile machine,” today’s options can be mind-boggling. We think we’ve got a handle on the do’s and don’ts of the various platforms; then along comes a new means of communicating and, with it, a whole new menu of potential ethical mishaps.

PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) works year-round to provide you with the most current information possible. This includes coordination with PRSA District and Chapter leadership teams nationwide to address their needs and an ongoing review of PRSA’s Ethical Standards Advisories (ESA) to insure that they address current communication challenges. For example, BEPS is publishing a new ESA, “Ethics and Social Media,” to address a very timely need that has been identified by members. We invite your input on issues that you have encountered or see looming on the horizon.

“Ethics Month” is one of PRSA’s initiatives to both remind ourselves of the importance of being seen as an ethical practitioner and educate our publics on the fact that we do have guidelines and oversight to help members and non-members understand that we, as the largest organization representing the profession and the professional, are committed to ethical conduct and practice.

With that in mind, PRSA devotes its energies to an action-packed month of tweet chats, webinars, blog posts and chapter/district outreach in order to “reach and teach” as many PR professionals as possible. And the hope is that our districts and chapters will take the advice and insights from this month and apply them to their own individual programming needs throughout the year.

This is your opportunity to join in the conversation, offer your own insights and experiences, and learn from others who have “been there” before you. Watch your email, visit the PRSA website, and check in on the many social media platforms for information on dates and times for Ethics Month activities.

About the author

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Associate Professor of Communication (Undergraduate) at Curry College in Milton, MA. Prior to his move into academia, Kirk practiced nonprofit and government public relations and marketing for more than 35 years in the US as well as Asia. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Kirk was inducted into PRSA’s prestigious College of Fellows in 2009 and is one of just two actively-teaching college professors in Massachusetts to have earned this distinction. You can read more of Kirk’s musings at his blog “A Professor’s Thought” and follow him on Twitter @KirkHazlett.

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