Professionalism and Ethics in the PR World

Ethics and professionalism each play a huge role in the public relations industry, and it is important for any PR executive to remain well versed in each of these subjects. Both topics are connected, considering that one’s professionalism can be compromised if they do not make the right ethical decision in the work place. PR professionals must be educated on ethics and professionalism in order to stay relevant and make the right decisions while on the job.
The topic of ethics can be very complicated at times. With several different philosophies surrounding the topic, and so many opposing viewpoints on what is right and wrong, there is still much to be learned about this complex subject. To many, ethics is known as a moral branch of philosophy. This branch of philosophy addresses right and wrong conduct. Originally, the term ethics came from the Greek word “ethos,” that is used to describe the beliefs and values of a community, nation, or ideology. Over the years, philosophers divided ethics into three major areas of study. These areas of study include meta-ethics, normative ethics and applied ethics. It is important for any PR professional to study ethics as much as possible, so they are able to make the right decision if they ever face an ethical dilemma in the workplace.
The topic of professionalism goes hand-in-hand with ethics, and it is important for all PR practitioners to remain professional at all times. The Webster’s dictionary defines professionalism as “the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.” The definition of professionalism is fairly simple to understand. In today’s world, those trained to do a specific job or educated in a specific field are usually held to a certain standard in the workplace. These people are expected to look, dress and behave in a way that is seen as “professional” by their peers and colleagues. When a person stays up to par with this professional standard, it will likely increase their overall success when looking for a job or carrying out tasks for a job they may already have.
When PR practitioners choose not to practice ethics and professionalism on the job, it usually results in hurting their organization or personal reputation. This is why it is important for everyone to conduct themselves professionally and make the right ethical decisions.


Bringing Our Professional Values and Competencies to Youth Oasis

“Being professional” has nothing to do with having an actual “profession.” This is a concept that is drilled into all of our heads as soon as we begin taking part in organizations or sports teams or summer jobs as teenagers. As a completely biased individual when it comes to the importance of good public relations, it is my job to harp on the fact that solid professional values and competencies are much more important to the ever-so-crucial world of public relations. After all, we have more than our careers in our hands. We have the reputations, careers and public opinions of every client we have the pleasure of working for right at our very fingertips. (No pressure, right?) But this is why we are PR people. Our personalities cause us to thrive off of pressure and of the idea of the ball being in our court. But don’t take it from me. According to the website of American Physical Society, “PR is vital to outreach programs.” It also states that good public relations “can lead to strong community and industrial partnerships, and even financial support.” This is an issue of passion: of putting our ethical codes and values to the test for the very first time as distinguished individuals and experts. The Public Relations Society of America’s website gives the PRSA Member Statement of Professional Values. It states that “these values are the fundamental beliefs that guide our behaviors and decision-making process.” The values include: advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty and fairness. We as members of Broad Magnolias make an oath as professionals in this field to work by these standards and hold ourselves to the standards that are expected of us and that we expect of ourselves. Albert Einstein once said, “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”

Cutting Edge PR released a piece titled “Why trust is really important to you.” It goes into detail about what being trustworthy accomplishes with your client and what trust actually means. The more one reads about wholesome values, competencies and ethics, the more one understands that it makes more logical sense to stick closely to set and stick to ethical guidelines from the beginning of the campaign. It also says that for public relations to be effective, people have to trust you. Youth Oasis trusts us. They trust us to take care of their respected and highly praised name in order to gain them even more respect and praise. We are fortunate in the sense that it is easy to apply professional values and competencies to an organization that holds fast to their values in the first place. In our first meeting with Youth Oasis to discuss their expectations for us throughout our time with them, they were quick to tell us about the restrictions that are placed on any events that they host because of their affiliation with children. This was very comforting because as professionals who have had little opportunity for experience, we do not want to accidentally or coincidentally overstep any boundaries that we were unaware of. Youth Oasis has been very transparent with us in showing us what they expect and do not expect of us, and we have been very transparent with them in explaining to them our competencies and limitations for our time together.


From PR Experts to Youth Oasis Experts

As senior public relations majors, group campaign projects are nothing new to us. This is, however, our very first (and last) service learning class that will challenge us to take everything we’ve learned as public relations students and apply our knowledge as professionals in a real public relations scenario. So when it comes to determining whether we would call ourselves experts, we as a group would have at first responded with a very enthusiastic answer of “absolutely not.” However, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the exact definition of an expert is, “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.” When we take into consideration the fact that in 88 days, we will all have bachelor’s degrees in mass communication and have been taught by some of the most knowledgeable public relations educators in the country, we begin to realize that we are, in fact, experts.

Now that we know we have the capabilities of being an expert, we have to go the next step: we have to become experts in the field of our client, Youth Oasis. According to our textbook titled “Strategic Planning for Public Relations”, we have to know what we’re talking about when it comes to spreading the message of our client to be considered true experts. A specific objective of ours is to “specifically increase the Baton Rouge community’s understanding of the services that Youth Oasis provides to homeless and displaced youth.” In order to do this, we must be more than experts of public relations; we must also be experts of all things Youth Oasis.

Mashable.com released an article called “How To: Become an Expert in Your Industry” in 2009. It lists several benefits of being an expert. It tells that being an expert helps you, “establish yourself as an industry leader, get interview and media coverage, help others and become a trusted resource.” One of the goals that we discovered is requested of us through our time with Youth Oasis is media coverage, which as we just found through the article is a benefit of becoming an expert. By meeting with our client and establishing trust with them, we will not only help them but also we will be establishing ourselves as more credible public relations professionals. Youth Oasis wants us to tell their story, and their story is a great one to tell. They are a noteworthy organization with amazing humanitarian efforts in order to make Louisiana a better place for children of all ages. The fact that they are seeking help from public relations professionals provides further evidence that they are also experts in their field. Commpr.biz released an article this summer stressing the importance of hiring public relations professionals. It stated that public relations practitioners bring “their expertise in writing, in social media, media relations and special events to the plate.” All of these things are specific to the positions that we fill within our group. We are very excited to pull together all of our expertise and go to bat for Youth Oasis this semester. We look forward to getting to know them better and helping to better brand them to gain them more recognition in the community.