Mary Beth West -- PRCA.jpgTuesday’s PrimeTimePRchat was exciting because it was the first time that we were able to benefit from having a guest moderator. Mary Beth West, APR, Fellow PRSA is an inspiration and force within the public relations profession. She openly and frankly speaks about the dark side of PR — the ongoing ethical questions that we face and a lack of professional ethical oversight. She has challenged the status-quo in national PR circles and has learned the hard way that fighting for doesn’t always win popularity contests. When she is not saving the PR world, she is wowing clients over at Fletcher Marketing PR


primetimeprpollThe conversation was what you might expect from a group of senior communications practitioners, and while it might seem uneventful that we all went online to agree that we are one, ethical practitioners and two, supportive of bringing awareness to ethics in PR, the form and function of such programs, oversight, and leadership is where we start to see differing views.

Our chat started with a mini poll (right) that shows the inconsistencies of how professionals study and practice ethics. I am guilty — I read the PRSA Code of Ethics when I became a member years ago and have not reviewed it since. I feel like my peers and I are very ethical, but I was a little surprised when I reviewed the code for the chat that it only presents very basic “Examples of Improper Conduct.”

I feel that as a profession, we should go much deeper on this issue. With “articles about communications firms that burnish reputations for seemingly unsavory clients such as Harvey Weinstein and ousted, corrupt S. African president Jacob Zuma” should firms be placed on a watch list or on notice somehow?

Below is a recap of the conversation and for a PR 101 Ethics in Public Relations checklist, please visit my PR Resources page.

Two items that I found to be very helpful for new practitioners is How to respond to unethical requests from your PR boss and the Decision Making Model.

Using the mnemonic PLUS, you can ensure that ethics are embedded in every decision you make.

  • P = Policies

  • Is it consistent with my organization’s policies, procedures, and guidelines?

  • L= Legal

  • Is it acceptable under the applicable laws and regulations?

  • U = Universal

  • Does it conform to the universal principles/values my organization has adopted?

  • S= Self

  • Does it satisfy my personal definition of right, good and fair?

Some of the points around ethics that resonated with the chat professionals included:

  • Transparency
  • Measurement
  • Compliance

Below is a recap of the conversation and for a PR 101 Ethics in Public Relations checklist, please visit my PR Resources page.

I would love to keep the conversation going. Please share your thoughts.