Striving for Morality and Ethics Within Public Relations

November 1, 2006 at 12:52 am 5 comments

           For many years the practice of Public Relations (PR) has been associated with terms such as “spin doctoring”, “deception”, and “manipulation”. These terms are less than flattering, and many public relations agencies today are now opting for strategies that demonstrate their practice is anything but unethical. Ideas of honesty, value and integrity are now popping up in mission statements, and agencies are now openly expressing their dedication to presenting the public with what they believe to be as the truth.

          The privately owned PR firm, Edelman, in the United States, prides itself on taking the necessary measures to ensure that its stakeholders, employees, clients and public are receiving honest information that measures up to the ethical standards in North America today. Richard Edelman (President and Chief Executive Officer) has developed and implemented a 5 Point system that discusses the measures they take to ensure that they are abiding by the ethical code of conduct that has been established within that organization. Measures such as these, help to steer away the negative connotations that the field of public relations once had.

The first point is the need to build an accurate profile that encompasses all of PR work. PR agencies need to talk about the success stories that are happening in the industry in order to develop a set of role models for others in the field to look up to. By emphasizing the positive it may encourage and inspire other PR practitioners to do, and be better.

 The second point is that PR agencies must embrace transparency on funding sources and motives. Richard Edelman believes that all PR agencies should be open about the sources of funding no matter how inconvenient it is to the company or the clients. By being open it shows the public that the agency has nothing to hide, therefore, helping to foster a trustworthy relationship with the public.

The third point argues that PR agencies must counter accusations about PR as propaganda. By having internal principals within PR agencies, it helps to reject accusations of propaganda, and helps the public understand how business and decisions are made at that particular agency.

The fourth point refers to the need for an enforcement mechanism for sanctioning misbehaviour. By establishing a system that imposes consequences on PR agencies that fail to meet industry standards in terms of ethical behaviour, may force many agencies into thinking through their actions more carefully in order to determine the repercussions.

The final point of the plan is to create an individual ethics plan for Edelman, which is adapted into the mission statement of the company. By including such information in a mission statement allows the agency to be up front about their intentions, therefore, letting their clients and public know exactly how they go about doing business. If other agencies develop their own individual ethics plan it will help to set them apart in their marketing strategies.

            Richard Edelman has taken the extra step to set Edelman apart from other PR agencies, and has taken a stance in the right direction to help ensure that PR practices are trustworthy, and ethical. This new trend towards a more honest practice will help to foster better relations between PR agencies, their clients, and the public.




          For your enjoyment, check out the following websites that I found to be fascinating on this topic.


Cook, Trevor. (2006). Report Card – Tots, Toddlers, Walkers. Retrieved October 12,

      2006, from


2.  Van Hook, Steven. (2006). Ethical Public Relations: Not an Oxymoron. All About Public

     Relations. Retrieved October 12, 2006, from

3.Balkissoon, Denise., El Akkad, Omar., & Silverman, Craig. (2006). The 30 Minute

      EMBA. Report on Business Magazine. Retrieved on October 11, 2006, from


  Thank You.

Cheryl Calic



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. prclass  |  November 1, 2006 at 1:31 am

    This is an interesting topic! Hopefully we as the next generation of PR practitioners will be able to ablish the negative “spin” sometimes associated with PR. Hopefully some day soon, public relations will be primarily associated with honest, ethical practises.

  • 2. prclass  |  November 1, 2006 at 5:59 am

    Public relations, in the little time that I have had to become acquainted with it, seems to be a profession in the process of ‘finding itself.’ It seems that due to its broad and disparate applications, PR has not yet been able to establish or codify a set of guiding principles that would govern what is and what is not appropriate within the profession. This loose structure allows the PR practitoner a lot of freedom when deciding how to best accomplish their communication goals. However, it can lead to morally questionable behaviour. I personally find that this is one of the challenges that makes public relations such an intriguing career choice.
    – Nick Iszakovits

  • 3. Jamie Gill  |  November 1, 2006 at 8:58 pm

    Hello Cheryl,

    Great job on your post for our assignment. I want to say I agree with Nick’s comment of “Public relations, in the little time that I have had to become acquainted with it, seems to be a profession in the process of ‘finding itself.”

    To add, I 100 percent agree with you, Public Relations needs to promote more positive stories, since your research has shown people interpret PR negatively. To promote more positive stories of what PR does and the agencies who promote this good work, will lead to more but not all people viewing Public Relations as positive and necessary.

    To continue, all of our classes, especially Intro to PR and Emerging Technologies and Trends, discusses the PR practitioner must be aware and research so they know the public and what way to inform them. Overall, knowing the best channels of communications to inform is important, and this is a theme I got from your post Cheryl.

    Great Job
    Jamie Gill

  • 4. Colleen D.  |  November 3, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    I completely agree with you that PR needs to become more transparent to avoid the label of “spin doctors”. It will definatly help if more positive stories are in the media, which shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, since it is the PR professional’s job to get stories out there.
    Do you think this lack of credibility could also stem from the lack of guidlines that govern the PR industry?
    Good job!

  • 5. prclass  |  November 10, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    It is very important for PR practitioners to practice ethics. Because the field does not have a designation that imposes ethical and professional standards, it’s imperative we impose them on ourselves. I think the five criteria listed above are a great start to promoting PR as more than just spin.

    Steph miller.


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