PRSA had a letter to the editor of the London Evening Standard
(UK) published March 30, 2011 , in response to a March 28 article
that called into question the ethical standards of some UK public-relations firms for their work with ill-reputed governments and dictators. _______________________________________
In relation to criticisms of his firm's work with the Economic Development Board of Bahrain, Lord Bell is correct in justifying his position of representing clients “who have a legitimate right to tell their story," which includes those in countries with different values, customs and norms.
What's been left unsaid, however, is the widely held view that this right carries certain obligations. The UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations has a Code of Conduct that advocates "honest and responsible regard for the public interest"; the Public Relations Society of America's Code of Ethics
encourages loyalty to client and the public; honesty and accuracy in all communications; and the refusal of client engagements that require actions contrary to the PRSA Code.
Inasmuch as Lord Bell says that “everyone is entitled to representation so long as it does not involve doing anything illegal,” I also would suggest that it should not involve doing anything unethical. That is a personal decision every PR professional must make for themselves.
Arthur Yann, APR
Vice President, Public Relations
Public Relations Society of America