PREthics: Integral to Achieving Your APR

Putting the letters APR after my name was a milestone, as it is for many public relations professionals. It signifies a disciplined focus, rigorous study and develops a deeper understanding of the principles of public relations.

Ethics in public relations is a significant focus in APR preparation and the exam; just as it is the foundation of our day-to-day PR practices. For PR professionals, ethics requires continuous review, evaluation and thought in the ever-evolving climate of emerging issues and challenges.  The speed of social media, citizen journalism, expanding expectations for corporate social responsibility and other issues require all of us to have a solid understanding of ethics and the PRSA Code of Ethics.

The focus on ethics during APR preparation encourages personal introspection, reflection and sound decision-making around dilemmas faced in the day-to-day execution of our public relations duties. As Chapters work with APR candidates, we challenge them to apply the principles and values of the PRSA Code of Ethics to a range of situations. Using discussion and role playing, we help candidates build confidence and speed in making solid decisions and justifying those decisions.

Some situations are fairly straightforward, such as failing to disclose your employer in a website comment and using front groups. Other situations are more complex and nuanced, including free flow of information and conflicts of interest. If you’re interested in exploring some ethical situations, the APR Study Guide has several situations to assist you in practicing your ethical decision-making skills. You don’t need to be preparing for the APR exam to access and use the study guide.

Here’s the tricky part. While Ethics may seem clear cut, situations can vary from practitioner to practitioner and situation to situation. You may find that you disagree with other professionals – the discussion following these differences, will increase your understanding and sharpen your skills.

PRSA’s Code of Ethics sets us apart from others in our profession. The principles and guidelines in the Code help us live the core values of the ethical practice of public relations and make consistent decisions. It’s a framework for aligning our decisions with our professional goals; working within that framework strengthens the profession and the professional.

The values of the PRSA Code of Ethics:

  • Advocacy
  • Honesty
  • Expertise
  • Independence
  • Loyalty
  • Fairness

The provisions of the PRSA Code of Ethics:

  • Free Flow of information
  • Competition
  • Disclosure of information
  • Safeguarding confidences
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Enhancing the profession

PRSA provides many ethics resources, including Ethical Standards Advisories (ESAs), at If you haven’t recently reviewed the PRSA Code of Ethics, take a minute today to look at the values and principles at the core of ethical execution of our profession.

Your consistent ethical approach to public relations and your day-to-day work will set you apart in our field, build your reputation as a PR professional and strengthen our profession.

Margaret Ann Hennen, APR, Fellow PRSA, is president of Hennen Communication, LLC, has a focus on providing strategic communication and public relations counsel to small businesses and nonprofits, helping them tell their stories, advance their missions and serve their clients. Connect with Margaret Ann on LinkedIn.

About the author

Margaret Ann Hennen, APR, Fellow PRSA

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