Wednesday, January 21, 2009

6 Core Values of PR

September may be PR Ethics month, but it's really too important of a topic to save discussion to one month a year. As an accredited public relations professional, I feel obligated to not only help my fellow PR practitioners embrace the PRSA Code of Ethics, but also to talk to people outside the practice about our code and what it means.

First off, yes we have a code of ethics! If you are working in PR and don't realize this key fact then get yourself to a PRSA meeting now. If you're not in PR and think we are all a bunch of hack Karl Rove wannabes, stop buying into the stereotype. It's not true. Like any profession (lawyers, mechanics, politicians, etc.) most of us work hard to do the right things. It just a few high-profile jerks who make us all look bad (which in itself is a violation of the code).

So here's a quick run down of the first half of the PRSA code of ethics, and the lay-person translation I created to help me keep it all straight.

Value 1: Honesty
PRSA says: We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy & truth in advancing the interests of those we represent & in communicating with the public.
Bonnie says: Don’t lie. Don’t lie to your client, don’t lie to your colleagues, don’t lie to the media. Just don’t, ever. Period.

Value 2: Independence
PRSA says: We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions.
Bonnie says: Don’t be a lapdog. You are hired to be a counselor, an adviser. You are not hired to blindly go along with what your client wants you to do.

Value 3: Loyalty
PRSA says: We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.
Bonnie says: Don't screw over your client. The best interests of your client are always a top priority. They are putting a lot of trust in you, and your commitment (of lack of) to them can have huge impacts.

Value 4: Expertise
PRSA says: We acquire & responsibly use specialized knowledge & experience. We advance the profession through continued professional development, research & education. We build mutual understanding, credibility & relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.
Bonnie says: Remain credible. You do this by applying the things you’ve learn, like the four-step process, by being able to articulate why we do research and evaluation, by continuing your professional development and by maintaining good relationships.

Value 5: Advocacy
PRSA says: We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts & viewpoints to aid informed public debate.
Bonnie says: The public is always your client. My favorite definition of public relations is “building mutual understanding between a client and their publics.” At its core PR is a public service.

Value 6: Fairness
PRSA says: We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media & the general public. We respect all opinions & support the right of free expression.
Bonnie says: Don’t be an asshole.

Next time, I'll look at the second half of the code: the 6 provisions.

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