The value of taking ethics seriously in your career

The month of September is Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)’s Ethics Month, which makes it a good time to review some traits necessary to help set the standard for the public relations profession.

“If you don’t have integrity, you have nothing,” said Henry Kravis, a businessman with a net worth of more than $4.5 billion. “You can’t buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing.”

Source: PRSA

Source: PRSA

The PRSA Code of Ethics highlights some key points to follow and take to heart:

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

Ethics need to be intertwined into the threads of every day PR life because every aspect of our jobs can spring an on the spot ethical dilemma.

The book “Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques” gives advice on how to handle a scenario when even the relatively simple task of cropping and altering a photo can become a dilemma.

The book said: “You have the professional responsibility to honor the original photographer’s work and not make alterations that would violate the integrity of the original photo.”

Everyday life requires ethical decisions and dilemmas. In PR, it is a bit more of an issue because the opportunity to influence people’s decisions is always prevalent.

For example, a PR spokesperson for a company selling portable deep fryers could receive exemplary remarks from nine out of ten chefs that completed a trial run with the cooking contraption. But, if the chef complained his cooker blew up and injured hungry bystanders that were just waiting on fresh jalapeno poppers, it could be seen as a bit misleading.

Although it would be most advantageous to run a press release about the positive feedback, the PR practitioner could potentially put consumers at risk if they did not disclose all the research. It is not a business decision anymore, but an ethical one. (Also, you would probably need a good lawyer for the lawsuits in this particular case as well…)

It has been proven time and time again that misleading the public is never going to pan out for anyone in the long run. If the PRSA Code of Ethics is followed, your professional and personal ethics should never run into a problem for you or anyone else hoping to keep solid credibility in the PR profession.

You can read more about ethics in PR and read the Code of Ethics in its entirety on the PRSA website.

And, while you’re enjoying learning about ethics and PRSA, join us tomorrow, Spet. 17, at 5:30 p.m. in SC 301 for a mini Ethics Summit with the PRSA Detroit Ethics Chair, Joan Witte.

Ken Bowen
Vice President of Professional Development

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