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March 21, 2011

PRSA Advises on Ethical Best Practices for Recording Media Interviews

NEW YORK (March 21, 2011) — The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) today issued a Professional Standards Advisory (PSA) that offers legal, ethical and practical guidance for public relations professionals who record conversations and media interviews to ensure accuracy in reporting and transcription.
 
To keep its Code of Ethics current, PRSA periodically issues PSAs as updates to the Code; the revisions are based on evolving technology and changing social and professional norms. Recent PSAs have dealt with everything from the ethical use of interns to “greenwashing” to “pay for play.”
 
“Recorded conversations can be an invaluable tool for public relations professionals who want to ensure the accuracy of information used in their writing, but there are legal and ethical considerations that must be understood whenever a recording is made,” said BEPS Chair Tom Eppes, APR, Fellow PRSA. “While it's important to check with an attorney for the best professional counsel, this advisory helps practitioners understand many of the legal and ethical implications involved in making an electronic recording.”
 
In “Professional Standards Advisory-18: Illegal Recordings,” PRSA advises public relations professionals to thoroughly consult applicable state and federal laws governing the recording of individuals’ conversations, even if those discussions take place during a scheduled interview. PRSA also counsels public relations practitioners to receive prior consent from at least one, if not all, parties participating in a recorded conversation.
 
To sustain ethical and legal practices concerning the recordings of media interviews and other conversations, the PSA includes a series of suggested best practices, which include:
  • Always inform all parties participating in the dialogue that a recording of the conversation is intended, allowing anyone who disapproves to refrain from participating.
  • After informing all parties that the conversation is being recorded, start the recording and repeat that the call is being recorded to ensure a record of the notification is captured.
  • Consult a local attorney familiar with state statutes if you are uncertain about the laws that apply to a planned recording.
The current PSA is the 18th update to PRSA’s Code of Ethics that BEPS has issued since the Code, originally drafted in 1950, was updated in 2000. While the Code applies solely to PRSA members, it has come to be widely regarded as the public relations industry’s de facto guide to ethical conduct.
 
About the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
With more than 31,000 members, PRSA is the largest organization of public relations professionals and students. PRSA is comprised of 112 local Chapters organized into 10 geographic Districts; 12 Professional Interest Sections that focus on issues, trends and research relevant to specialized practice areas, such as technology, health care, financial communications, entertainment and sports, and travel tourism; and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which has more than 300 Chapters at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. PRSA is headquartered in New York.

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