Ethics Case Studies
See how colleagues handled issues in PRSA ethics case studies.
Check out “Ethical Public Relations: Everyday Expectations”
Available On Demand │ Free to PRSA and PRSSA members
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:
- Define the specific ethical issue/conflict.
- Identify internal/external factors (e.g., legal, political, social, economic) that may influence the decision.
- Identify key values.
- Identify the parties who will be affected by the decision and define the public relations professional’s obligation to each.
- Select ethical principles to guide the decision-making process.
- Make a decision and justify it.
Ethical Standards AdvisoriesApplying 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.
- “Disclosure” (April 2018)
- “Ethics and Social Media” (September 2015)
- “Disclosure and Transparency in Native Advertising and Sponsored Content”(September 2014)
- “Deceptive Online Practices and Misrepresentation of Organizations and Individuals” (Rev. June 2012)
- “Illegal Recordings” (March 2011)
- “Ethical Use of Interns” (February 2011)
- “Plagiarism” (September 2010)
- “Looking the Other Way” (August 2010)
- “Expropriation of the Intellectual Property of Others” (February 2010)
- “Use of Video News Releases as a Public Relations Tool” (October 2009)
- “Questionable Environmental Claims and Endorsements (Greenwashing)” (October 2009)
- “Pay for Play” (October 2009)
- “Engaging in the Use of Deceptive Practices While Representing Front Groups” (Rev. October 2008)
- “Overstating Charges, Fees and/or Compensation” (rev. August 2007)
- “Disclosure by Expert Commentators and Professional Spokespersons of Payments or Financial Interests” (April 2005)
- “Telling the Truth, Especially in War Time” (January 2005)
- “Reporting Unethical Behavior or Unprofessional Performance” (Nov. 2004)
- “Disclosure of Employment Status of Client-Based PR Agency Staff” (May 2004)