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September 07, 2011

PRSA: Time to Set Record Straight on PR’s Ethical Backbone — PRNewser Op-Ed

As part of Ethics Awareness Month, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) had an op-ed published Sept. 6, 2011, in PRNewserdetailing the importance of ethics for the public relations profession. The opinion piece, written by Deborah Silverman, Ph.D., APR, chair of PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards, reveals how a growing body of academic research on PR ethics issues has helped underscore the importance of ethical conduct to public relations practitioners.
 
According to Silverman: “In reviewing a number of these studies, I’ve seen a growing stack of articles and scholarly wisdom show that, yes, PR professionals are becoming more ethical and are more concerned with ethics-related issues than ever before.”
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Time to Set Record Straight on PR's Ethical Backbone
By Deborah Silverman, Ph.D., APR
PRNewser
Published: Sept. 6, 2011

For PR professionals, 2011 has been an up-and-down year in terms of ethics.
 
A quick glimpse at recent headlines would give the casual reader the impression that all is wrong in the world of PR ethics: The News of the World phone-hacking scandal; American PR firms providing image counsel to dictators; and PR firms writing fake online product reviews on behalf of clients.
 
While it may seem that each week brings a new tale of an epic ethics flap in PR, reality is not as gloomy as perception. The fact remains, however, that public relations practitioners have long battled an image problem: that we, collectively, are unethical — no better than snake-oil salespeople.
 
Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout my career, dating back to the mid-70s, I have had the pleasure of working alongside colleagues who adhered to the highest ethical standards. I’m sure that my experiences are shared by many others.
 
Thankfully, there is a growing body of research on PR ethics issues by communication scholars that underscores the importance of ethical conduct to public relations practitioners. In reviewing a number of these studies, both in my role with the PRSA and as a PR professor of ethics, I’ve seen a growing stack of articles and scholarly wisdom show that, yes, PR professionals are becoming more ethical and are more concerned with ethics-related issues than ever before.
 
The profession is filled with journals and initiatives focused on ethics issues. We have the PRSA’s Public Relations Journal and the Institute for Public Relations’ “Ethics and PR” studies, not to mention the Edelman Trust Barometer, which offers one of the best indicators of business’ and governments’ reputation and credibility among the public.
Despite all this focus, PR continues to face perception issues about its ethical credentials. But the research simply doesn’t support the public and media’s hypothesis.

Read the full op-ed at PRNewser.
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