Oxymoronic? September Is PRSA’s ‘Ethics Awareness Month’


The Public Relations Society of America has declared September to be “Ethics Awareness Month.”

This is a banner under which public relations practitioners everywhere should march. Strict ethical guidelines should be that fundamental to an industry that specializes in repairing and maintaining reputations. But does establishing a month for PR types focus on ethics even matter any longer? Does ethics carry as much of a place of importance as it should in this industry?

The younger this industry gets, the more ethics should matter.

How are we doing on that front?

In this field, credibility is all we have — and we lost that then journalists may see us as little more than telemarketers. So, if this month is supposed to be dedicated to increasing the ethical fibers among our experts, what does that mean?

high-road-road-jpgDo we take turns writing op-eds? Are we on our best behavior in front of our clients? Do we stop those terrible practices like blanket email pitches and shilling a product with no news? These are all “ethical” standards that should be upheld, but the PRSA’s own info indicates that we aren’t upholding them at all.

Most of us want to refute stereotypes about our industry primarily by avoiding the worst practices that lead some to question our own ethical makeup.

Last year, PRSA unveiled a survey about “Generational Differences in the Workplace,” and although the findings are dated, the results still paint a picture of our ethics today.

  • Nearly half of Millennials (49 percent) observed workplace misconduct.
  • Pressure to break the rules is significantly higher for the youngest workers.
  • The youngest workers (29 percent) were significantly more likely to experience retaliation than Gen X’ers (21 percent) and Boomers (18 percent).

From stunts to strategies, ploys to practices, we owe it to each other and our clients to raise the bar of ethics in public relations. So, while this month may feel like just another thirty days on a calendar to most of us, let’s accept the PRSA’s challenge and act to raise awareness of the need for a focus on ethics in the industry.

We will all be better off for it.