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How Important Is That Code of Ethics?

Posted At: September 21, 2012 11:45 P.M.
by Christina Steward

Recently in my campaigns class, our teacher briefly mentioned the PRSA Code of Ethics. While everyone silently listened, she abruptly offered, “Five extra points to the student who can name the six values of the Code.” No one said anything.

As a public relations student, you automatically think you know the PRSA Code of Ethics. Every PR class brings it up in some way. But, when asked point-blank, can the values really roll off the tongue with ease? I could immediately think of four. When our teacher began naming them, I thought, “Oh yeah, how did I forget that?” I am sure that was how it was for the rest of my class.

After class I began wondering how not one of our senior-level PR students could immediately shoot off every part of the PRSA Code of Ethics. We know that they are important, yet we struggle to name each one. Any public relations professional should learn and follow the Code for the betterment of the industry. Not every industry has a code that it follows, so when you do have one, you should make a point to learn and understand it.

The PRSA Code of Ethics consists of a preamble, member statement of six professional values and six provisions of conduct. Even though the Code officially applies to PRSA members only, each part of the Code serves an important purpose in the public relations field.

Here are the professional values of the Code and why I feel each aspect is crucial to public relations.

Professional Values (HILEAF):

Honesty: This seems like common sense, but there have been countless times when a PR professional has skirted around the line of honesty and given public relations a bad reputation, such as being nicknamed spin-doctors. We must ALWAYS be honest with our client, publics and (most importantly) ourselves.

Independence: This one may not be as clear as Honesty, but when we represent a client, we represent them independently. As PRSAstates, “We provide objective counsel to those we represent.” Through our decisions and actions, we provide guidance for our client. Therefore, we must ALWAYS be independently accountable for our decisions and actions.

Loyalty: Loyalty can get you far in life and your career. Companies and clients want someone whom they can trust. Sometimes you do not realize the importance of trust until it is gone. We must ALWAYS be faithful to those we represent.

Expertise: As a student in a top PR undergraduate program, I realize how important the knowledge and experience our field requires are. It goes beyond classroom textbooks. You must continuously stay up to date on not just all things PR, but also worldly news. This is especially true if it is anything that might affect your company or client in some way.

Advocacy: In the PR world, we are advocates for those we represent. PRSA states, “We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts, and viewpoints to aid informed public debate.” We are a voice; a voice for our client, company and ourselves.

Fairness: This value can be applied anywhere in life. We must always treat everyone we deal with fairly. PRSA says, “We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression.” We may not agree with everyone we come across, but we must ALWAYS treat them with fairness.

The PRSA Code of Ethics is not just something you see in the back of a textbook. If you ever feel like you are faltering in the PR world, the Code reminds you why you are there and what needs to be done.


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