Ethics Thought Leadership

Ethical Guidelines…If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going…

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.


Oftentimes, as public relations professionals, we, too, find ourselves facing an ethical “fork in the road” and need guidance. Unfortunately, former New York Yankees manager Yogi Berra’s advice…“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”…is of little help.

We need more than vague answers to our ethical dilemmas, and Yogi, bless his heart, was the master of vague! Then, when Alice, in “Through the Looking Glass,” asked the Cheshire Cat which road she should take, it smugly responded, “That depends a great deal on where you want to get to…” In response to Alice’s “I don’t much care where…,” the Cat concluded, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk.” No help here, either!

Unlike Alice with the charmingly enigmatic Cat, we as members of the Public Relations Society of America, do have resources we can turn to…in particular the PRSA Code of Ethics which states, in part: “The Code is designed to be a useful guide for PRSA members as they carry out their ethical responsibilities. This document is designed to anticipate and accommodate, by precedent, ethical challenges that may arise. The scenarios outlined in the Code provision are actual examples of misconduct.”

Granted nothing’s perfect and the Code, while comprehensive, may not address every conceivable challenge that comes our way. But it’s not a static document either, and members of PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards are constantly reviewing and evaluating to ensure the contents are as comprehensive and relevant as possible.

The Code of Ethics is your resource, and your input is appreciated if you have encountered an issue that is not addressed it its current contents. Not just any road will get you to your ethical destination, but PRSA’s Code of Ethics is an excellent roadmap to guide you in the right direction.

Nance Larsen, APR, Fellow PRSA specializes in strategic issues management, media relations and crisis communications related to large-scale events and the environment. Follow her on Twitter @PR_Fuse


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Nance Larsen

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