Ethics Resources

Ethics Case Studies
See how colleagues handled issues in PRSA ethics case studies.

Ethics Webinar
Check out “Ethical Public Relations: Everyday Expectations”
Available On Demand │ Free to PRSA and PRSSA members

Ethics Quiz
Test your PR ethics knowledge by taking the PRSA Ethics Quotient (EQ) Quiz.

Guide to Increasing Collaboration Between the Communications and Ethics Offices
PRSA and the Ethisphere® Institute, the global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business, have created a comprehensive reference guide that provides insights from the World’s Most Ethical Companies®, actionable research highlighting best practices for effective communications and a roadmap for building greater accountability. Learn more.

Ethics Articles and Blog Posts
Find insight on ethical challenges and best practices in Content Connection.

Ethical Decision Making Guide

Kathy R. Fitzpatrick, APR Member, BEPS

For public relations and other professionals, ethical dilemmas arise when responsibilities and loyalties conflict and a decision about the appropriate – i.e., ethical – course of action must be made. Often, a choice is required among actions that meet competing obligations. For example, when might the obligation to serve the public interest override loyalty to clients? When does a particular stakeholder’s interest take priority over an employer’s interest? In other words, just exactly what is “responsible advocacy”?

These questions illustrate the challenge of practicing ethical public relations. And they raise the related issue of how alternative actions should be weighed and competing interests balanced. In this regard, an ethical decision-making process can be helpful. Such a guide forces the decision maker to address significant issues that should be considered before taking action.

A number of such processes exist – ethics educators offer a variety of approaches to ethical decision making. The following guide, which is adapted to meet the specific needs of public relations professionals, is offered as one approach that PRSA members may find helpful in addressing ethical dilemmas:

  1. Define the specific ethical issue/conflict.
  2. Identify internal/external factors (e.g., legal, political, social, economic) that may influence the decision.
  3. Identify key values.
  4. Identify the parties who will be affected by the decision and define the public relations professional’s obligation to each.
  5. Select ethical principles to guide the decision-making process.
  6. Make a decision and justify it.

Ethical Standards Advisories

Applying the PRSA Code of Ethics, the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) offers analysis on current practice issues and challenges through Ethical Standards Advisories (ESAs).

ESAs are considered direct extensions of the PRSA Code, and have the same force and effect as any provision within the PRSA Code. Designed to keep the PRSA Code timely through a formal process, ESAs provide practitioners guidance to deal with new situations and circumstances as they arise int he daily practice of public relations.

BEPS continues to build the ESA library. Your input with issues you are facing or have faced are the basis for ESA topics. Email your ESA suggestions to the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards.

Available ESAs: