PRSA-Member Code of Ethics

Ein erster “Code of Ethics” wurde 1950 verfasst und 1954 überarbeitet. 1959 ersetzte ihn die Jahresversammlung der Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) durch einen neuen “Code of Professional Standards for the Practice of Public Relations”. Dieser Text wurde 1963, 1977, 1983 und 1988 überarbeitet und 2000 durch den folgenden “Code of Ethics” ersetzt.
Zur Einführung in diesen neuen Kodex hier zwei Statements des für die Kodifizierung verantwortlichen Board of Ethics der PRSA:
Letter from the Chairman of the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
The new Public Relations Member Code of Ethics for our Society is the result of two years of concentrated effort led by the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards. The comments of literally hundreds and hundreds of members were considered. There were focus groups at our 1999 national meeting in Anaheim, California. We sought and received intensive advice and counsel from the Ethics Resource Center, our outside consultants on the project. Additional recommendations were received from your Board of Directors, PRSA staff, outside reviewers, as well as District and Section officers. Extensive research involving analysis of numerous codes of conduct, ethics statements, and standards and practices approaches was also carried out.
The Code was approved by the Assembly in 2000. During 2000 and 2001, the appointment and training of Ethics Officers began. Chapter Ethics Officer training continued in 2001, along with the introduction of various case studies and problems for beta testing. Beginning this year, they will be distributed to the entire membership.
This Member Code of Ethics was developed to serve as a foundation for discussion of an emerging global Code of Ethics and Conduct for the practice of Public Relations. The new Code is dramatically different from its predecessor. You’ll find it different in three powerfully important ways:
1. Emphasis on enforcement of the Code has been eliminated. But, the PRSA Board of Directors retains the right to bar from membership or expel from the Society any individual who has been or is sanctioned by a government agency or convicted in a court of law of an action that is in violation of this Code.
2. The new focus is on universal values that inspire ethical behavior and performance.
3. Desired behavior is clearly illustrated by providing language, experience, and examples to help the individual practitioner better achieve important ethical and principled business objectives. This approach should help everyone better understand what the expected standards of conduct truly are. Perhaps most important of all, the mission of the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards has been substantially altered to focus primarily on education and training, on collaboration with similar efforts in other major professional societies, and to serve in an advisory role to the Board on ethical matters of major importance.
The foundation of our value to our companies, clients, and those we serve is their ability to rely on our ethical and morally acceptable behavior. Please review this new Member Code of Ethics in this context:
• Its Values are designed to inspire and motivate each of us, every day, to the highest
levels of ethical practice.
• Its Code Provisions are designed to help each of us clearly understand the limits and
specific performance required to be an ethical practitioner.
• Its Commitment mechanism is designed to ensure that every Society member
understands fully the obligations of membership and the expectation of ethical behavior, which are integral parts of membership in the PRSA.
This approach is stronger than anything we have had before because:
• The Code will have a daily impact on the practice of public relations.
• There are far fewer gray areas and issues that require interpretation.
• The Code will be more successful and grow stronger than what we have had in the past through education, through training, and through analysis of behaviors. The strength of the Code will grow because of the addition of precedent and the ethical experiences of other major professional organizations around the world. Our new Code elevates our ethics, our values, and our commitment to the level at which they belong – the very top of our daily practice of Public Relations.
Robert D. Frause, APR, Fellow PRSA
Message from the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards
The primary obligation of membership in the Public Relations Society of America is the ethical practice of Public Relations. The PRSA Member Code of Ethics is the way each member of our Society can daily reaffirm a commitment to ethical professional activities and decisions.
• The Code sets forth the principles and standards that guide our decisions and actions.
• The Code solidly connects our values and our ideals to the work each of us does every
• The Code is about what we should do, and why we should do it.
The Code is also meant to be a living, growing body of knowledge, precedent, and experience. It should stimulate our thinking and encourage us to seek guidance and clarification when we have questions about principles, practices, and standards of conduct. Every member’s involvement in preserving and enhancing ethical standards is essential to building and maintaining the respect and credibility of our profession. Using our values, principles, standards of conduct, and commitment as a foundation, and continuing to work together on ethical issues, we ensure that the Public Relations Society of America fulfills its obligation to build and maintain the framework for public dialogue that deserves the public’s trust and support.
The Members of the 2000 Board of Ethics and Professional Standards.
The PRSA is here to help. Whether you have a serious concern or simply need clarification, you can contact us confidentially at:
Bob Frause, Chairman
Board of Ethics and Professional Standards
Public Relations Society of America
33 Irving Place, Floor 3
New York, NY 10003
212-995-0757 Fax
Member Code of Ethics 2000
(1) Professional Values
(2) Principles of Conduct
(3) Commitment and Compliance
This Code applies to PRSA members. The Code is designed to be a useful guide for PRSA
members as they carry out their ethical responsibilities. This document is designed to anticipate and accommodate, by precedent, ethical challenges that may arise. The scenarios outlined in the Code provision are actual examples of misconduct. More will be added as experience with the Code occurs.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is committed to ethical practices. The level of public trust PRSA members seek, as we serve the public good and advocate for our clients, means we have taken on a special obligation to operate ethically. The value of member reputation depends upon the ethical conduct of everyone affiliated with the
Public Relations Society of America. Each of us sets an example for each other – as well as other professionals – by our pursuit of excellence with powerful standards of performance, professionalism, and ethical conduct.
Emphasis on enforcement has been eliminated. But, the PRSA Board of Directors retains the right to bar from membership or expel from the Society any individual who has been or is sanctioned by a government agency or convicted in a court of law of an action that is in violation of this Code. Ethical practice is the most important obligation of a PRSA member.
(1) PRSA Member Statement of Professional Values
This statement presents the core values of PRSA members and, more broadly, of the public relations profession. These values provide the foundation for the Member Code of Ethics and set the industry standard for the professional practice of public relations. These values are the fundamental beliefs that guide our behaviors and decision-making process. We believe our professional values are vital to the integrity of the profession as a whole.
• We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent.
• We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts, and viewpoints to aid informed public debate.
• We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.
• We acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience.
• We advance the profession through continued professional development, research, and
• We build mutual understanding, credibility, and relationships among a wide array of
institutions and audiences.
• We provide objective counsel to those we represent.
• We are accountable for our actions.
• We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public
• We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the
general public.
• We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression.
(2) PRSA Code Provisions / Principles of Conduct
Core Principle
Protecting and advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information is essential to serving the public interest and contributing to informed decision making in a democratic society.
• To maintain the integrity of relationships with the media, government officials, and the
• To aid informed decision making.
A member shall:
• Preserve the integrity of the process of communication.
• Be honest and accurate in all communications.
• Act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the practitioner is responsible.
• Preserve the free flow of unprejudiced information when giving or receiving gifts by
ensuring that gifts are nominal, legal, and infrequent.
Examples of Improper Conduct Under this Provision:
• A member representing a ski manufacturer gives a pair of expensive racing skis to a sports magazine columnist, to influence the columnist to write favorable articles about the product.
• A member entertains a government official beyond legal limits and/or in violation of
government reporting requirements.
Core Principle
Promoting healthy and fair competition among professionals preserves an ethical climate while fostering a robust business environment.
• To promote respect and fair competition among public relations professionals.
• To serve the public interest by providing the widest choice of practitioner options.
A member shall:
• Follow ethical hiring practices designed to respect free and open competition without
deliberately undermining a competitor.
• Preserve intellectual property rights in the marketplace.
Examples of Improper Conduct Under This Provision:
• A member employed by a “client organization” shares helpful information with a counselling firm that is competing with others for the organization’s business.
• A member spreads malicious and unfounded rumors about a competitor in order to alienate the competitor’s clients and employees in a ploy to recruit people and business.
Core Principle
Open communication fosters informed decision making in a democratic society.
• To build trust with the public by revealing all information needed for responsible decision making.
A member shall:
• Be honest and accurate in all communications.
• Act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the member is responsible.
• Investigate the truthfulness and accuracy of information released on behalf of those
• Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.
• Disclose financial interest (such as stock ownership) in a client’s organization.
• Avoid deceptive practices.
Examples of Improper Conduct Under this Provision:
• Front groups: A member implements “grass roots” campaigns or letter-writing campaigns to legislators on behalf of undisclosed interest groups.
• Lying by omission: A practitioner for a corporation knowingly fails to release financial
information, giving a misleading impression of the corporation’s performance.
• A member discovers inaccurate information disseminated via a web site or media kit and does not correct the information.
• A member deceives the public by employing people to pose as volunteers to speak at public hearings and participate in “grass roots” campaigns.
Core Principle
Client trust requires appropriate protection of confidential and private information.
• To protect the privacy rights of clients, organizations, and individuals by safeguarding
confidential information.
A member shall:
• Safeguard the confidences and privacy rights of present, former, and prospective clients and employees.
• Protect privileged, confidential, or insider information gained from a client or organization.
• Immediately advise an appropriate authority if a member discovers that confidential
information is being divulged by an employee of a client company or organization.
Examples of Improper Conduct Under This Provision:
• A member changes jobs, takes confidential information, and uses that information in the new position to the detriment of the former employer.
• A member intentionally leaks proprietary information to the detriment of some other party.
Core Principle
Avoiding real, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest builds the trust of clients, employers, and the publics.
• To earn trust and mutual respect with clients or employers.
• To build trust with the public by avoiding or ending situations that put one’s personal or
professional interests in conflict with society’s interests.
A member shall:
• Act in the best interests of the client or employer, even subordinating the member’s personal interests.
• Avoid actions and circumstances that may appear to compromise good business judgment or create a conflict between personal and professional interests.
• Disclose promptly any existing or potential conflict of interest to affected clients or
• Encourage clients and customers to determine if a conflict exists after notifying all affected parties.
Examples of Improper Conduct Under This Provision
• The member fails to disclose that he or she has a strong financial interest in a client’s chief competitor.
• The member represents a “competitor company” or a “conflicting interest” without informing a prospective client.
Core Principle
Public relations professionals work constantly to strengthen the public’s trust in the profession.
• To build respect and credibility with the public for the profession of public relations.
• To improve, adapt, and expand professional practices.
A member shall:
• Acknowledge that there is an obligation to protect and enhance the profession.
• Keep informed and educated about practices in the profession to ensure ethical conduct.
• Actively pursue personal professional development.
• Decline representation of clients or organizations that urge or require actions contrary to this Code.
• Accurately define what public relations activities can accomplish.
• Counsel subordinates in proper ethical decision making.
• Require that subordinates adhere to the ethical requirements of the Code.
• Report ethical violations, whether committed by PRSA members or not, to the appropriate authority.
Examples of Improper Conduct Under This Provision:
• A PRSA member declares publicly that a product the client sells is safe, without disclosing evidence to the contrary.
• A member initially assigns some questionable client work to a non-member practitioner to avoid the ethical obligation of PRSA membership.
Rules and Guidelines
The following PRSA documents, available online at provide detailed rules and guidelines to help guide your professional behavior. If, after reviewing them, you still have a question or issue, contact PRSA headquarters as noted below.
• PRSA Bylaws
• PRSA Administrative Rules
• Member Code of Ethics
(3) Commitment and Compliance / Pledge
I pledge:
To conduct myself professionally, with truth, accuracy, fairness, and responsibility to the public;
To improve my individual competence and advance the knowledge and proficiency of the profession through continuing research and education;
And to adhere to the articles of the Member Code of Ethics 2000 for the practice of public relations as adopted by the governing Assembly of the Public Relations Society of America.
I understand and accept that there is a consequence for misconduct, up to and including
membership revocation.
And, I understand that those who have been or are sanctioned by a government agency or convicted in a court of law of an action that is in violation of this Code may be barred from membership or expelled from the Society.