7.5 Obligations in Public Relations

Let’s look at the positive and negative obligations that help PR specialists gather and use information responsibly. These examples come from the Public Relations Society of America Member Code of Ethics. Once again, many of these obligations refer to both ethical and legal responsibilities.

POSITIVE OBLIGATIONS

1) Serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those the PR firm or professional represents.

2) Adhere to the highest standards of truth and accuracy while advancing the interests of those the PR firm or professional represents.Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) logo

3) Acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience in preparing public relations messages to build mutual understanding, credibility and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.

4) Provide objective counsel to those the PR firm or professional represents. For example, the best advice for a client may be to admit wrongdoing and apologize. The PR practitioner must objectively weigh this advice and offer it if it is the best option.

5) Deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media and the general public.

6) Act promptly to correct erroneous communication for which the PR firm or professional is responsible. Again, failure to do this could invoke both ethical and legal sanctions.

NEGATIVE OBLIGATIONS

1) Do not plagiarize. Never, ever, ever represent someone else’s work as your own.

2) Do not give or receive gifts of any type from clients or sources that might influence the information in a message beyond the legal limits and/or in violation of government reporting requirements.

3) Do not violate intellectual property rights in the marketplace. Sharing competitive information, leaking proprietary information, taking confidential information from one employer to another and other such practices are both legal and ethical violations.

4) Do not employ deceptive practices. Asking someone to pose as a “volunteer” to speak at public hearings or participate in a “grass roots” campaign is deceptive, for instance.

5) Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. PR professionals and firms must encourage clients and customers as well as colleagues in the profession to notify all affected parties when a conflict of interest arises.