Code of Ethics in PR
Updated: May 23
Current research shows a historical trend of associating public relations with unethical behaviour, such as lying, spin-doctoring, and even espionage. Many critics argue that there can be no ethical public relations because the practice itself is related to manipulation and propaganda.
An unfortunate belief among many media and policymakers is the assumption that the term "public relations ethics" is a paradox. Either an unreal possibility or smoke and mirrors to hide deception.
Are these critiques justified and warranted?
Some argue that PR creates misinformation and false reality, perpetuating fake images. While this may occur unintentionally, we need to address these concerns through ethical practices.
As PR professionals, it is crucial that we prioritise honesty and transparency and never hide the truth. We must elevate our profession by standing for more than just image-making.
All professionals are expected to adhere standards of integrity, accountability, and sound judgment standards. Explore the code of conduct for public relations professionals and examples of unethical behaviour.
Ethics are vital to public relations as every organisation needs to have a voice of conscience - a guiding hand that helps them always do the right thing. Public relations has the power to counsel even the C-suite on how to conduct themselves, and they must also be determined to steer the working of the entire organisation towards an ethical direction. But this can only be done if public relations forms and abides by its code of ethics.
Therefore, as communications professionals, we at StP Communications, we are committed to ethical practices. The services and consultancy we provide are models for the best interests of all parties involved, as we serve the public good/interest.
We pride ourselves on our high performance standards, professionalism and ethical conduct.
We also require from our partners to adhere to ethical standards, such as those outlined by the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and require them to obtain our approval before sending communications to the media.
Our set of values includes several principles that are to be put into daily practice:
Integrity and honesty
We place truth, transparency and accuracy at the highest level in our partnership with clients, employers, colleagues and fellow professionals, as they are always informed about what can be delivered and achieved, as well as what each party involved must do to achieve desired results.
We thoroughly check the accuracy and reliability of all information we disseminate. We are the advocates of those we represent. We ensure that their voice to the world is honest and truthful.
We deem ourselves accountable for our actions while remaining loyal to those we represent.
Competence and expertise
We deliver competent work: in a timely-mannered, cost-effective and appropriate manner for the objective. We take steps and ensure that our clients are constantly informed, advised and consulted.
We put our expertise to the very best of use. We strive to constantly/continuously develop as professionals by acquiring new knowledge and experience.
We only promise what we can provide/deliver. We are realistic about our professional competencies and are willing to collaborate on projects that require a specific set of skills.
We protect and nurture our business relationships with various stakeholders, such as media contacts, journalists, public institution officials.
We continuously build new relationships with a wide array of institutions, stakeholders and key opinion leaders.
Transparency and confidentiality
We provide our clients with complete/full confidentiality, safeguarding sensitive information throughout/during on-going contracts and after their completion.
We never use "inside information" to prejudice or disadvantage/harm other parties involved, nor for our self-interest.
We provide complete/full disclosure to our partners on financial, business practices and ethical issues.
We acknowledge and declare potential conflicts of interest as soon as they arise to clients or potential clients.
We deal fairly with all stakeholders, and we support the freedom of speech.
We strongly endorse the PR Code of Conduct of IPRA (International Public Relations Association). Adopted in 2011, the IPRA Code of Conduct is an affirmation of professional and ethical conduct by members of the International Public Relations Association and recommended to public relations practitioners worldwide.
Throughout its existence IPRA has always sought to provide intellectual leadership for the public relations profession.
A crucial part of this has been the development of several Codes and Charters seeking to provide an ethical framework for the activities of the profession. Upon joining IPRA all members undertake to uphold these Codes and, in doing so benefit from the ethical climate that they create. The Code consolidates the 1961 Code of Venice, the 1965 Code of Athens and the 2007 Code of Brussels.
Honesty and trustworthiness are organisation values that have suffered erosion. We see citizens everywhere in the world increasingly getting cynical about corporate and governmental behaviour. Public relations agency Edelman found in a recent Trust Barometer survey that trust, transparency and honest business practices influence corporate reputation more that the quality of products and services or financial performance.
There is no shortage of ethical challenges that communicators are facing right now. With misinformation swirling, trust in institutions declining, and businesses operating in new ways, it is essential we put ethics at the front of the line. Therefore, is ethical PR paramount.