Ethical framework guides the practice of public relations

Number two particularly caught my eye in a recent PR Daily piece debunking “10 misconceptions about PR” . . . that PR pros distort the truth. For those who believe our profession is all about “trickery and deception,” the trade pub accurately countered that public relations is based on telling the truth and building trust.

The brief rebuttal noted that those“. . . who distort the truth get found out and are quickly brought to light.” We see that’s true time and again with the parade of celebrities and politicians in the news who suddenly become PR experts as they attempt to wiggle out of uncomfortable predicaments with creative anecdotes or outright lies to redeem themselves and save their reputations.

As a public relation practitioner, I know that telling the truth is the only way to go, but it goes much deeper than that – I’m ethically bound to do so. As a long-time member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), I’m proud of my hundreds of thousands of colleagues across the country who share my commitment.

PRSA maintains and enforces a Member Code of Ethics that guides practitioners’ behaviors and decision-making processes in order to protect the integrity of the profession. It starts with a Statement of Professional Values:
• Advocacy:  to act as responsible advocates for those we represent.
• Honesty:  to adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in communicating with the public.
• Expertise:  to responsibly use our specialized knowledge in building relationships with institutions and audiences.
• Independence:  to provide objective counsel to those we represent.
• Loyalty:  to be faithful to our clients while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.
• Fairness:  to deal fairly with and respect the opinions of all audiences – clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media and the general public.

A comprehensive Code Provisions of Conduct follows that summarizes and defines six core principles that guide PR practitioners in responsibly dealing with issues involving free flow of information, competition, disclosure of information, safeguarding confidences, conflicts of interest and enhancing the profession.

With the PRSA-Detroit Chapter one of the most active of the hundreds across the nation, our leadership has gone even further to help members demonstrate commitment to ethical practices. We are encouraged to declare our dedication through the Detroit-Chapter’s Ethics Honors Code Program which, after immersion into the national Member Code of Ethics, we take an ethics quiz and cap the entire process by signing an ethics pledge.

Public relations will always take hits in light of the antics of amateurs who confront their public dilemmas with anything less than the truth. But those of us who strive for ethical excellence in all we do, know that those anomalies don’t define our profession.

How do you demonstrate ethical performance in your profession?

Pat Adanti-Joy, APR, is a vice president at Franco Public Relations Group and Accredited member of PRSA. She currently chairs the chapter’s Senior Council.  She served several terms on the board of directors and chaired the Accreditation prep program for more than 20 years. You can reach her at 313-567-5046 or

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *