Ethics Thought Leadership

The Truth and the Code

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.

The word “code” has connotations of legality, obligations and the law. It is a somewhat burdensome word and one that involves minutia and fine print.

Yet ever since the Hammurabi Code and the Ten Commandments, codes have regulated society. Where would we be if there was not circulation, building and, yes, tax codes?

Codes prevent societal chaos.

Although the words “truth” and “truthful” are mentioned only once in the PRSA Code of Ethics, the concept of truth permeates the Code throughout and represents its very spirit.

Without the concept of truth, the words advocacy, honesty, free flow of information, disclosure, transparency, and enhancing the profession, that are the tenants of the Code, would be meaningless.

Furthermore, without truth there can be no trust, a core value in any relationship.

Truth is a complex concept.

Should it be spelled Truth or truth? Should we say truth or truths?

Recently The New York Times Magazine ran a full page about truth:


The truth is hard.

The truth is hidden.

The truth must be pursued.

The truth is hard to hear.

The truth is rarely simple.

The truth isn’t so obvious.

The truth can’t be glossed over.

The truth has no agenda.

The truth can’t be manufactured.

The truth doesn’t take sides.

The truth isn’t red or blue.

The truth is hard to accept.

The truth pulls no punches.

The truth is powerful.

The truth is under attack.

The truth is worth defending.

The truth requires taking a stand.

The truth is more important now than ever.


Philosophers and theologians have debated the meaning of truth for ages. I believe that the most important question we should ask ourselves is: What does it mean to me personally?

The answer will determine how we live, how we interact with each other and how we practice our profession.

The PRSA Code of Ethics is a professional guideline, but also could be a mirror that will reflect who we truly are.

Walter Lipmann once said:

“We shall advance when we have learned humility; when we have learned to seek truth, to reveal it and publish it; when we care more for that than for the privilege of arguing about ideas in a fog of uncertainty.”

Emmanuel Tchividjian is principal at the Markus Gabriel Group.

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Emmanuel Tchividjian

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