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It’s Ethics Awareness Month in PR, So Why Aren’t We More Aware?
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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For years — probably decades — public relations professionals have been going about their business, representing clients and shilling to the media in hopes of not being called “a flack,” “a spin doctor,” or even “a fraud.”

And despite our struggle, our plight, our everyday business, we are still called those names in the newsroom. Houston, we have always had a problem.

According to the Public Relations Society of America, September is ‘Ethics Awareness Month.’ Seems like a dose of irony, right? In an industry that should champion ethics more than most, considering the expertise in reputation management, this is a field that could use a little of what it positions.

In short, PR needs PR. Why? Because it seems that the industry known for highlighting ethics in its clients is thought to be lacking a truckload of its own.

Unfortunately, public relations is an eponymous term that covers thousands of people. Some novice, others lifers. Some untrained in the ways of PR, others completely professional but not willing to learn new tricks. Some moral pillars of truth, others unscrupulous hacks who wear loud shirts and offensive cologne.

And like with every sect of humanity, the rotten apples spoil the entire bunch. Unfortunately, it’s the media that usually gets served with the crappy, moldy, noxious apple pie through ridiculous pitches, terrible media relations, and attempts to circumvent the decision process through payola and plugola.

The PRSA Code of Ethics requires that PR pros, among other things, refrain from “subordinating the truth to other requirements” and “taking part in any venture or undertaking which is unethical or dishonest or capable of impairing human dignity or integrity.”

While that is true and should sound a clarion call across the industry, maybe what the PRSA should do is create an “Accountability Awareness Month.” Maybe with more accountability in the industry, ethics would become a little more contagious. Maybe that’s another month.


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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