Trust Your Gut: Everyday Ethical Decisions

By Rachel Burns, PRSA Cleveland New Pros Chair

Earlier this month, Young Pros of PRSA’s Greater Cleveland Chapter had an engaging dialogue with a panel of PR professionals, Lorraine Schuchart, APR, founder and CEO of Prosper for Purpose and Holly Mueller, owner and Chief Communications Officer of Holly M Communications, at a recent PRSA event, “Trust Your Gut: Everyday Ethical Decisions”. As the title of the event hints at, the topic of conversation was ethics and expanded from everyday ethics, to crisis ethics, to graphic design ethics and much more.

“Ethics are part of an organization and start from the top down. You’re judged by the company you keep,” said Schuchart. “Employees of Prosper for Purpose sign the PRSA Code of Ethics as a term of their employment.”

The PRSA Board of Ethics & Professional Standards (BEPS) – with the support of the Arthur W. Page Center – recently published the second of three studies related to public relations practitioners’ roles and responsibilities to provide ethics counsel. However, the study also found that most millennial practitioners indicated that they did not feel prepared and are unlikely to offer ethics counsel. Making this a perfect environment to discuss real-life ethical scenarios for young pros.

“We’re hired to be an advisory role. Be confident,” said Mueller. “We’re not the bad guys, we’re finding all the facts and putting it together.”

How can young pros proactively implement or learn more about ethics? Here are a few key takeaways from the discussion:

  • Trust your gut. “If it feels icky, it probably is,” said Schuchart. Staying true to yourself and being transparent contribute to ethics.
  • Stay ahead of trends and technology. Ethics change and broaden based on the evolution of technology and other aspects of a business.
  • Talk to your company IT department. Learn from them about privacy and confidentiality. Understand the legal issues or implications around communications.
  • Identify or offer to create a social media policy. Research examples such as a response tree for complicated or larger organizations.
  • Be prepared for a crisis. Digital makes everything immediate. Encourage or help lead crisis communications exercises in advance and ensure your team has a plan of action.
  • Continue the conversation. Every professional deals with ethical decisions. Encourage your colleagues and peers to discuss the topic and share insights and thoughts with one another.

Remember: PRSA National has an established Code of Ethics available for you to reference and share at any time.

Upcoming events: The Cleveland Rocks Awards, PRSA Great Cleveland’s signature event, is on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Additional ticket and event information can be found here.

Public Relations Society of America, Greater Cleveland Chapter