PR Ethics 101: Are PR Practitioners More Ethical Today?


Public Relations practitioners for years are trying to overcome the bad reputation. Many times PR folks have to work between thin lines when it comes to loyalty to their client and public. I think that PR industry had a lot of time to learn on its mistakes, but are PR practitioners more ethical today or they just pretend to be?

According to PRSSA article Finding a Balance: Ethical Loyalty in Public Relations, working in PR while respecting both parties interest: clients and public, it may be very challenging. Disagreement between colleges and coworkers is very common especially when it comes to making decisions that involve ethics. Therefore, the decisions that are made won’t satisfy everyone, but what is the best way to go about it?

The PRSSA article talks abut few steps when making coming up with a compromising solution. First, start with research that will help to analyze project before coming up with solutions. Look into previous projects, solutions that had been made and recommendations and get a feel for a client and the company behavior.

Second, plan ahead and for many different scenarios. Make sure that everybody on your team understands the goals and things you are trying to achieve.

In addition, keep in mind that the planning you did at first and your strategy may change and shift along the way. Stay tuned with your client at all times, make sure you are on top of what is going with the company to avoid any possible crisis situations.

Lastly, use your common sense and your ethical judgment at all times. Sometimes the situation between you and your client becomes unstable, and you will be asked to work against ethics. Therefore, in a profession like PR you need to be aware of that keeping your reputation and loyalty is one of the most important things. It creates the mutual trust between the client, you and public, so sometimes you may lose a client, but in a long run you will keep your integrity.

Because making ethical decisions is not always so easy and obvious you should familiarize yourself with tools that may help you in hard times. Therefore, adapt new code of values that will guide you when making ethical decisions.

New Code of Values (Source: power point presentation)

  • Advocacy
  • Honesty
  • Expertise
  • Independence
  • Loyalty
  • Fairness


When thinking about non- consequentialism, certain actions are always going to be right or wrong, regardless of their consequences. Therefore, the ethic code is one of the examples of the deontology theory. Doing the right thing is the only ethical solution vs. doing something that will benefit you personally. Actions are considered to be moral because they are done of duty to be fair and honest only.

“Truth is what we are all about. Not hype. Not spin. But truth. If public relations is to retain its position as the credible source, we must not blur the line between information and propaganda, between advocacy and salesmanship(…)”- Thomas Harris, former president of Golin Global


By Paulina Pytalk




Joe, J. K. (2013, September 16). Finding a Balance: Ethical Loyalty in Public Relations. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from

Nisbett. G. (March 28, 16) PR Ethics. Power Point Slides. Retrieved from Blackboard.

Thomas L. Harris, APR, Fellow PRSA. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2016, from







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