Public Relations Can Be Ethical

PR regrettably 😢😢 carries a tarnished history, one marred with unfortunate incidences that have eroded public trust including espionage, spin-doctoring and even out-right lying.

In the words of communication guru Stanley J. Baran, “No wonder PR has such poor PR.” 🤔🤔 Over time, people have felt justified in vilifying the profession of public relations, equating it to masterminded deception even though virtually every organization utilizes its methods and techniques at some point in time. This may be a covert reason for why organizations have attempted to camouflage public relations with terms that are more endearing to the public, such as corporate communications, public affairs and corporate affairs.

However, the modern public relations industry has gradually taken strides 🚶🏼 🚶🏼 🚶🏼 away from ‘the end justifies the means’ modus operandi and has adopted a more public-conscious and ethical stance in its business approach; granted, there are still some treacherous professionals involved in underhand dealings, but they need not spoil it 🙄🙄 for everyone else. The adoption of ethical codes of conduct by professional associations has undeniably played a big part in the maturing of the profession, as members pledge to abide by these codes of ethics. However, given that membership of these associations is voluntary, and not every PR professional is a member of one, this article is a call to PR professionals to take up the challenge of being ETHICAL, as it is broken down in the following paragraphs.

E- Equality

Always maintain a low ego.

The crux of PR, according to PRSA is creating mutually beneficial relationships with target the public. This calls for the PR practitioner to have a sense of parity in their dealings. They shouldn’t feel entitled to anything! Not to the public's time, not to their consent, not to their camaraderie. It should all be earned, as in any other normal human relationship. In essence, PR practitioners should see the public as partners in whatever they aim to achieve. This would mean refraining from looking down upon the public and always maintaining respectful communication even if they are of a lowly social status.

T- Transparency

Be an open book.📖📖

Transparency is about being forthcoming with the public and the media. Offering a comprehensive product and company information is endearing to consumers and breeds brand loyalty. According to this article by labelinsight, 94% of consumers are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency and 56% would be very likely to remain loyal to a brand for life if it offered complete transparency. Being open is especially crucial when managing a crisis. It is helpful to the public when an organization communicates in a reassuring, open manner, especially in uncertain times. This builds trust and goodwill.

H – Honesty

Cultivate telling the truth.

Honesty and transparency are linked. Notably, while honesty is about the quality of information shared, transparency encompasses both the quality and the quantity of that information. Honest communication is truthful communication.

It requires that PR officers never intentionally and willfully spread false or misleading information. The truth may hurt an organization’s reputation momentarily, but will build a trustworthy brand in the long-haul. As business magnate Warren Buffet said, “Trust is like the air we breathe; when it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.” PR officers should thus enshrine truth so as to build trust, for long-term success.

Read Courtney’s article on the GuidedPR blog to learn 4 more ways of building trust using PR.

I – Integrity

Character matters.

It is integrity that protects a PR practitioner’s reputation, even more than their accomplishments do. It entails showing strong commitment to abiding by values and ethical principles like trustworthiness, dependability, honesty and empathy. According to Indeed, maintaining one’s own professional integrity helps encourage an entire culture of ethical behavior in the workplace and this can be done in the following ways:

*Treating everyone the same.

*Rewarding honesty.

*Admitting your mistakes.

*Encouraging people to speak freely.

*Conducting self-assessments.

*Keeping your commitments.

*Putting in maximum effort.

C- Credibility

Be believable.👌👌

As explained by the CEO of GuidedPR, Rafael dos Santos, in this Forbes article, credibility is a function of a combination of factors including: achievements, knowledge, expertise, awards, credentials and years of experience. This certainly means putting in the hard work that is required of you as the PR pro; leaving no stone unturned in executing your pitches, events, and campaigns and doing this consistently.

Head over to the GuidedPR blog and learn easy steps you can implement to improve your credibility as a PR professional.


Never walk alone. 🚶🏽‍♂️🚶🏻‍♀️

As was pointed out at the beginning of this article, public relations' professional associations

have played a big role in entrenching ethical codes of conduct into the PR industry. Whether this be PRSA, CIPR or even IPRA, these have really helped to entrench ethics into the PR profession. When the members hold each other accountable on ethical practice, the entire profession gains sanity and respect. As much as membership is voluntary, becoming part of a group of like-minded professionals is essential as it also encourages wholesome career growth. The old adage holds, that iron sharpens iron.


Obey the laws of the land.

Notably, PR practitioners can be held legally accountable for their decisions and actions. As such, they must adhere to the legal standards of their country of operation so as to avoid legal tussles which can potentially destroy one’s hard-built reputation through inviting bad publicity. Some of the legal issues to be wary of include:


*Copyright Law

*Invasion of Privacy


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Wanja is an avid reader and passionate writer, living and working in Nairobi. She’s a PR Assistant and Blogger at GuidedPR. She holds a Bachelors in Mass Communication from JKUAT and has accordingly worked within the print media industry and in academia. When she's not researching current affairs and millennial trends, you'll find her on social media, keeping up with what's hot!

Find Wanja on LinkedIn.