September is PR Ethics Month, organized by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) with events planned at the national and chapter level. Here’s a list of ethics activities from Debra Petersen of the Dayton Area Chapter.
At the beginning of this month, I want to point out the fact that ethical situations happen every day, all year long. By ethical situations, I mean daily activities in which one must consider the consequences of personal and professional actions. The fact that PRSA designates a month to it simply means ethics is that important to concentrate on for a full month every year.
For example, let me share a phone inquiry I just had about ethics.
A former colleague who practiced and taught journalism for years finds himself doing what is essentially public relations. He was recently asked by a client to gather information from various sources on key topics, and write blog posts under the name of this client as a means of developing “thought leadership.”
My friend smelled something and said he thought to call me right away to get some insight and advice. We had a good talk about the issue, and I confirmed his fears. Research is ok, but not sourcing information and then even going beyond to present it as original insight for the purpose of self promotion is clearly a violation of several ethical values and principles, including honesty, fair competition, and disclosure of information. My colleague, who used to deride public relations with the smugness typical of journalists, realized that legitimate PR professionals have a solid grasp of ethics and are often the ones providing that insight, even though the profession too often unfairly gets blamed for “PR problems.”
At the beginning of this year’s month-long emphasis on PR ethics, I would encourage students of PR, current professionals, and even and especially non-PR professionals to learn more about public relations ethics with the following:
- PRSA’s Ethics Code and other resources
- “Ethical Voices”, an excellent blog and podcast about PR ethics focused on views from top professionals
- The Ethics as Culture efforts by the PR Council
- Ethics Training Modules from the Page Center at Penn State University
- Ethisphere, including lists and information about the world’s most ethical companies
- The Page Principles from the Arthur W. Page Society