Are PR practitioners adopting the current code of ethics or are they simply trying to appear ethical while engaging in unethical practices? This is a tough question to answer. In some instances, PR professionals might have intentions of following ethical codes and just slip up in some way. For agencies to follow ethical codes consistently there must be an internal system of checks and balances. Otherwise, one individual might be doing something unethical without the firm’s knowledge. History shows us that using a lawful form of ethical codes doesn’t work. The lawful code of ethics established by the PRSA reviewed 232 cases, of which 10 resulted in sanctions. Enforcement proved too difficult and the PRSA had no legal authority.
Today PR professionals operate on more of a good faith policy. Consumers and audience members are expected to trust PR practices and hope they are governing themselves. Baker and Martinson’s TARES test of ethicality is one of the best measurements for PR tactics. Messages should be truthful and persuasion should remain authentic. The PR professional or agency should maintain respect for the audience being persuaded. The revised code of ethics for PR is based on integrity and transparency. It’s in the best interest of the PR firm to follow the current code of ethics. If a PR agency loses the trust of its audience there’s a good chance it will fail. I believe it’s in the best interest of a company or organization to follow ethical codes if it intends on having good standing with the public. Attempting to simply appear ethical is risky and can have severe consequences.
An example of an organization adopting the guise of acting ethical and facing the consequences can be found in the NFL. For years, the league had a policy of dealing with player misconduct and managed to disguise their unethical practices. Since 2006, law enforcement perused 50 cases of domestic violence involving NFL players. If the player was talented the commissioner would hand down a small punishment. However, if the player was of lesser value, he would be released and essentially thrown out of the league. This practice made it seem like the league had a strong ethical code in these matters, when in reality, they were just maintaining a facade. The PR team for the NFL consistently endorsed the severe punishments while concealing the others. Now the league is experiencing severe backlash and scrutiny from the audience it serves. For an organization as profitable as the NFL, vast consequences in terms of revenue may not occur, but this may not be the case for smaller entities. PR professionals and agencies are held to a high public standard and should feel obligated to abide by ethical codes.
Cohn, Jonathan. “The NFL Owes Domestic Violence Victims a Big, Fat Check.” Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
“The NFL Tackles Domestic Violence.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.