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PRSA Ethics Awareness Month: How to Be An Ethical PR Professional

This is a guest post by Carol Kerbaugh, Boston University PRSSA’s Programming Coordinator.

When most of the world views PR professionals as flacks and spin doctors, how can we, as the up-and-coming generation of young professionals, dispel this long-standing stereotype? There is one simple answer: act ethically.

Informing and educating professionals about issues surrounding PR ethics is a key tenet of PRSA’s mission. During September, PRSA is holding Ethics Awareness Month to stress the importance of acting ethically when conducting business. PRSA outlines clear and specific guidelines for ethical PR practices in the Member Code of Ethics. We students should familiarize ourselves with these guidelines and keep them in mind when entering the workforce.

The Member Code of Ethics explains how protecting the free flow of information, encouraging healthy competition, disclosing information, safeguarding confidences and avoiding conflicts of interest can enable PR professionals to work ethically.

Free Flow of Information: Be honest in all communications. Truthful and accurate information is in the public’s best interest.

Competition: Don’t let your work alienate competitors. Competition is a vital part of a healthy business environment.

Disclosure of Information: Accurately report and communicate all information that the public may need to make an informed decision.

Safeguarding Confidences: Protect and respect confidentiality and private information.

Conflicts of Interest: Avoid and disclose any conflicts of interest between yourself and a client or organization before getting involved with a project.

Enhance the Profession: Refuse to work with clients who do not adhere to the same ethical guidelines. Work with colleagues to ensure ethical practices are being carried out throughout your organization. Report practices that do not align with your organization’s standards.

Obeying these guidelines will help PR professionals create honest relationships based on trust with various publics – consumers, media, government. By doing our work ethically, we will improve the image of our profession and show the world that PR isn’t really about front groups, pay-for-play journalism, blogs written by insiders and undisclosed sponsorships.

If you are interested in learning more about #PRethics, participate in PRSA’s Tweet Chat on September 25 at 3:00pm to discuss ethical issues facing young professionals.


Differences between Chinese and U.S. PR

Have you ever thought about Working as a PR practitioner in China? Through the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 Expo in Shanghai, China has revealed itself as a growing economic power and an increasingly resourceful consumer market.
Nowadays, western business organizations are seizing the opportunities to establish relationships with Chinese corporations. In order to gain their share of the Chinese market, the organizations from the Western world perceive PR as an effective and crucial method to reach the consumers in China. With that being said, an increasing number of PR agencies started to land in major cities in China such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
While being excited about the huge career opportunities and potentials of working in China, there are some differences between the two kinds of industries that you should expect if you decide to take that path.

1. Expectations on professionalism: According to a research done by China International Public Relations Association (CIPRA), PR is one of the easiest career choices in China. “Everyone can do PR.” that’s what the Chinese professionals said. However, the Chinese culture values education like no one else, your degree in PR will definitely become a competitive advantage in the Chinese industry.

2. Reputation and Public Perception: The public’s perception toward public relations as an industry in the U.S remains more negative than the public’s perception in China. The reputational downward trend of the PR industry in China has been reversed by recently pronounced events such as the Beijing Olympic Games and the Shanghai Expo. Through these events, the Chinese professional society began  to realize the crucial role of PR in its’ development. However, there are still negative perceptions that PR practitioners have to bear in China from time to time.

3. Relationship with the Government: When working in a Chinese agency, especially a domestic agency in China, the campaign that practitioners run for clients should accommodate with the Chinese government’s ideology of “Harmonious Society”. It is not as propagandized that the campaigns should include the actual idea or thoughts of the government, but the campaign should, at the least, not be conflicting with the ideology.

4. Ethical Issues: There are practices in China that are ethically-challenging to U.S. practitioners, especially for those who work in media relations. For instance, PR practitioners in China might: pay “transportation expenses” for the reporters in order to get them into a press conference; write press releases for their clients with the featured style of news stories at the reporters “convenience”; While members of the CIPRA are advocating for the inhibition of such practices, the practices remain common in the Chinese industry.

5. Different Approaches in Practices: Two-way symmetrical communication, an idea that is valued by the U.S. Scholars and Practitioners, is not really emphasized in the practices of Chinese PR. While practitioners in China value feedback from the public as well as the U.S. practitioners do, they prefer to send the perfect message to the public one time and one time only, what’s been learned from the feedback will be applied to the next campaign instead of the current one.

These are only some of the salient differences between the Chinese and the U.S PR industry. Are there any comparisons you would like to add?