What Are Ethics?
Ethics help individuals to “systemize, defend, and recommend concepts of right and wrong behavior” (Fieser, n.d.). Ethical theories are broken into three main categories:
- Metaethics – The study of morality. Looks into the foundation and scope of moral values
- Normative ethics – The study of ethical action. It helps to explain questions that arise when considering how one should act morally.
- Applied ethics – The philosophical examination of matters of moral judgment. Uses philosophy to choose the morally appropriate actions in daily life.
What about Professionalism?
The concept of professionalism is closely tied to ethics. According to the website of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, “a profession is distinguished by specific characteristics, including master of a particular intellectual skill through education and training, acceptance of duties to a broader society than merely one’s clients/employers, objectivity and high standards of conduct and performance.” The latter part of that definition makes it clear that ethics is essential to defining a profession.
Though it may seem obvious, any profession requires professionals. Adhering to professional behavior simply means doing what is right and developing professionalism as a personal attribute is a great way to move towards an ethical approach to your public relations practice.
Development of Public Relations Ethics
Have ethics and professionalism always been important to public relations practitioners? No, but it is today. This is an important concept for anyone entering into the field to understand.
Edward Bernays introduced public relations to the world. Early on, public relations practices generated many ethical concerns. During this era, practitioners utilized press agentry to generate publicity at any cost. This approach to public relations resulted in the unethical early reputation of the practice. This reputation still lingers over the field. Today’s society often associates public relations practitioners with spin-doctors.
Modern-day public relations practitioners strive for sound ethical behavior in their professional lives. National associations for public relations practitioners have implemented both ethical and professional standards for all practitioners. These standards have helped to reform the public relations practices of old from immoral to ethically sound.
Resources: Professionalism & Ethics
Many national associations for public relations practitioners provide their members with a code of ethics. This code is meant to serve as a guideline for these public relations professionals. Practitioners can look to these guidelines when trying to decide how to conduct themselves in their professional lives. The PRSA Code of Ethics is a widely used tool for all PR professionals. Private firms often reference this document when creating their business’ code of ethics. The PRSA Code of Professional Standards is resource that educates professionals on the six professional values of public relations.
Spark PR aims to adhere to the six enumerated values of the profession. We currently serve as advocate for The ALS Association. As advocates, we are responsible for providing the public with honest and accurate information about the organization. We make ourselves accountable for all of actions during the course of the campaign and aim to serve the public interest. We also act within our area of expertise and defer to organizational executives when appropriate.
The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) provides public relations students with a code of ethics. Students can utilize this code of ethics when they need assistance in choosing the right course of action. Students can also reference the six professional values when trying to identify the important aspects of the profession.
Members of Spark PR strive to adhere to all ethical and professional guidelines while carrying out our campaign. This commitment to ethical practices will compliment The ALS Association’s own high ethical and professional standards. We hope to build trust and have a prosperous and beneficial relationship with the client.
Jessica McAlum, Spark PR research director
Ethics in Public Relations: A Guide to Best Practices (2004). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from https://books.google.com/booksid=T8hF4mTRClAC&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9&dq=Global+Alliance+for+Public+Relations+and+Communication+Management,+“a+profession+is+distinguished+by+specific+characteristics,+including+master+of+a+particula&source=bl&ots=yTZsBzun7S&sig=B2T-8iD-NuUGo8yI25FMcHfInOU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjz7LrzpqDMAhXpmIMKHQlYD3sQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=Global%20Alliance%20for%20Public%20Relations%20and%20Communication%20Management%2C%20“a%20profession%20is%20distinguished%20by%20specific%20characteristics%2C%20including%20master%20of%20a%20particula&f=false
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/ethics/
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Member Code of Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from https://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/CodeEnglish/#.VlONDvmrTjZ
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Statement of Professional Values. (n.d.) Retrieved April, 19 2016, from https://www.prsa.org/aboutprsa/ethics/codeenglish/#MemberStatement
Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Member Code of Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://prssa.prsa.org/about/Advocacy/Ethics/