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By Melissa May, APR
Chapter Ethics Chair
During the July PRSA Ethics chairs call, Mitchell Friedman*, EdD, APR, explained PR professionals’ role in addressing issues related to the Black Lives Matter movement. “It’s all about ethics,” he said. “Ethics is fundamental to the practice of PR. Ethics is part and parcel of its practice.”
In regards to BLM and other major issues of the day, Friedman proffered six primary questions leaders—and all PR pros—must ask ourselves:
- As public relations professionals, do we say or do something? Do we get involved? Why? Why not?
- If so, what do we say, how do we say it, when do we say it, and where do we say it?
- How do we best advise organizations (and their stakeholders) on how to manage events or issues?
- Do we have the skills to assume these responsibilities?
- Do we have the opportunity to assume these responsibilities?
- Are we willing to assume these responsibilities?
Later in his talk, Friedman outlined seven pillars of the ethical practice of PR:
- Morals and values are shaped by a person’s family, faith and experiences. They are particular for each individual.
- We must have a firm grasp of professional ethics (PRSA Code, others).
- We must know what’s legal, going beyond the PRSA Code of Ethics. (legal doesn’t always equal ethical)
- We must be aware that ethical issues will arise … and be able to recognize them when they do.
- We must be aware of and have comfort in applying ethical decision-making frameworks (e.g., greatest good for greatest number, categorical imperative, procedural and structural justice)
- We must be aware of organizational ethics (e.g., code of ethics, code of conduct, hiring and promotion practices)
- We must understand context (i.e., time, place)
It’s our role, as PR practitioners, to consider ethics at the individual, professional and organizational levels. We must carefully look at the ethics of our behaviors and those of the organizations we represent. PRSA members should be leaders in diversity and inclusion, guiding our organizations to improvements regarding these vital issues.
*Mitchell Friedman is a senior lecturer in the Graduate School of Defense Management at the Naval Postgraduate School and serves as the Northern California director of the Institute of Advanced Advertising Studies.