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Updated: Aug 30, 2018

By: Beatriz Calderon

Imagine the following scenario: You’ve finally come up with an angle for a news release that will basically guarantee news coverage for an important client. However, to use this angle you’re going to have to distort some information. By not being honest you’re jeopardizing the media’s trust. So what do you prioritize, your short-term exposure or your long-term relationship with the media?

This example is just one of the countless ethical dilemmas that we will face in our industry. Understanding that ethics and public relations are linked together is pretty important to say the least. As PR agents our job among several is to have effective communication between the client and public. For this communication to be effective we must have the public’s trust.

Following certain ethical guidelines is what helps us maintain that trust. However, ethics isn’t just something we must follow but something we may give. In a crisis situation, CEOs at times may not have the best level of judgment on decision making. It is our job to assist them by providing ethical counsel.

Now let’s go back to the situation I described before. The correct thing to do here would be to prioritize your long-term relationship with the media. Now, you may be wondering what if someone else were to take the “wrong” route and get a promotion – why follow the rules? As stated before, even if the person does gain that short term victory, in the long-run it could be disastrous. Furthermore, if this person were a PRSA member then the PRSA Board of Directors may bar them from their membership or expel them from the society.

Unfortunately, a recent article released some unsettling facts. Less than half of new professionals and members with little experience in PRSA only felt familiar with the PRSA ethic guidelines. This result raises concerns on millennials’ ability to become successful PR agents.

Regardless if you are going to be part of the PRSA in a few months, years or whenever, I urge you to become familiar with ethical guidelines. A good starting place to familiarize yourself with ethical guidance is by visiting the PRSA ethics website page. Here you can view the code itself, access the resources PRSA offers for ethical guidance and more.

Another great resource to take advantage of is our mentors. As professionals, they have gone through countless experiences that have provided them with invaluable knowledge that we can learn a lot from. In fact, the study proved that talking to them about our concerns makes a difference.

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