The recent CNBC article, “PR Pitch: We’ll Pay You to Mention Our Clients,” by Allen Waslter, brought an ethical dilemma to the public’s attention. This article featured a search result engineering company based out of Texas called Status Labs, which attempted to bribe journalists to add their company’s information to their stories.
In the professional world, it is not unheard of for a company to reach out and promote itself in the media. In these cases, the relationship between the journalist and public relations firm is strictly professional and kept within the limits of the Public Relation Society of America (PRSA) Member Code of Ethics.
According to George Johnson, PRSA Board of Ethics & Professional Standards chair, this situation violated the code.
“Three, if not four, provisions in [our] code of conduct” were violated, said Johnson.
One of the journalists, as mentioned previously, is a writer at CNBC and was faced with a very difficult ethical decision: to write and take the compensation offered by this firm or to alert his supervisors and protect the reputation of his company and the integrity of his journalism career.
This example shows how the PRSA Code of Ethics comes into play in the professional world. This writer knew there would be severe consequences if he accepted an offer from the firm. Not only would his current employment be terminated, his future employment opportunities would greatly diminish as well.
The journalist set a great example when he chose to inform his superiors of the ethics violation and allowed his company to address the issue.
In the public relations industry, ethics is a key component for a successful business and career. In a world where blurred lines in communication frequently appear, your awareness and knowledge of ethics is vital to making smart decisions. Following the PRSA Code of Ethics is not only about saving your career. Ultimately, it’s about doing what is right.
By Emily Raschke
PRecisely PR is the blog of the Illinois State University Chapter of the PRSSA. We write about Chapter events, the public relations industry, member profiles, and more.