Your Career and You: “But Is It Ethical??”


Publication1I’ve talked a lot in the past about the various aspects of the public relations profession…superior writing ability, research skills, attention to detail, “big picture” thinking…

One thing I haven’t mentioned, at least not directly, is ethical conduct. No reason for this…just haven’t talked about it much.

I’m happy to say that my Communication students at Curry College, especially those in my PR Concentration, get an introduction to the role of ethics in the communication process. They need to understand that my profession…their future profession…is not a “wild west,” anything goes affair.

I emphasize that we have references to turn to, pointing out in particular the Public Relations Society of America’s “Code of Ethics” that does, in my opinion, a very good job of explaining with real-life examples the specific guidelines and accompanying challenges. I also give them an ethically-challenging situation as an assignment and ask (force??) them to examine the circumstances and make a recommendation for action based on the Code of Ethics.

Could we as educators do more? Of course. By the same token, we as practitioners could do more by reminding our clients or employers of the importance of ethical conduct.

I’m delighted that PRSA devotes one full month…September…each year to ethics education, with a wide variety of webinars, twitter chats, blog posts, in-person presentations at PRSA chapter meetings in all areas of the country, and articles in the Society’s monthly newspaper, “Tactics.”

That’s not to say that, once we’ve observed “Ethics Month,” our work is done. PRSA’s Board of Ethics & Professional Standards, of which I’m a proud member, works year-round with chapters and districts as well as with individual members to address ethical issues and offer advice.

The key takeaway from all this is that ethical thought and action should be part-and-parcel of everything that we as trusted counsel to our client or employer suggest or do. We also should be willing and able to speak up when someone else suggests or does something that we believe to be unethical.

Among our many responsibilities is that of being the “conscience of the organization” which means, when the situation calls for us to do so, asking the oh-so-simple-yet-oh-so-complicated question, “But is it ethical?”

One last thought…another example I give to my students as a means of determining whether or not an action is ethical…the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Would you want someone else lying to you? Or taking advantage of you? Think about it.

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About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 10 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in Code of Ethics, Communication, Critical Thinking, Curry College, feedback, Leadership, PR, PRSA, public relations, Public Relations Society of America and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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