A “code of ethics”—strictly defined—can be written by any group wishing to distinguish its members in some way from the rest of society, and should be concerned about how the behavior of its members impacts upon society.
True -- A code of ethics specifically codifies a group’s relationship to society. Ethics codes must be within a society’s legal parameters and moral norms; however, within those boundaries, society allows professional groups the freedom to determine their roles in society by publicly defining their relationship to society.
Organizations also sometimes create “codes of conduct” or “codes of behavior” that specify how members should behave under certain circumstances regardless of whether this behavior impact upon society.
Who are the primary beneficiaries of professional ethics in public relations? (pick just one)
B. Public Relations Practitioners
We as a professional community are the primary beneficiaries of our ethics, which permit us to self-identify our role in society by publicly defining our voluntary relationship with society. Our ethics clarify what our professional community has agreed to be the parameters of our professional conduct, even though a society’s legal code and moral norms may allow behavior that extends beyond our professional community’s self-declared ethical boundaries.
Because of this, society and our clients do also benefit from the ethical practice of public relations. But the primary beneficiaries are the members of the professional public relations community.
For years your company has used celebrities to endorse its products. Many of these celebrities have also enthusiastically participated in other feature-like coverage. A consumer activist group has contacted you, and apparently the media as well, claiming that your company’s failure to disclose that these celebrities are paid makes their endorsements more powerful than they really should be. In fact, these celebrities may be attracting consumers who can’t afford your products and may buy them simply because of a popular celebrity’s endorsement.
Each of the celebrity endorsements seems perfectly credible. It is likely that the celebrities do use, appreciate, or recommend these products outside of the visibility that they get in paid placements and public relations activities, for which they also are paid.
The dilemma you face is that some celebrities may not wish the fact that they are being paid to be disclosed. Some of these celebrities may stop endorsing your product, which could be quite newsworthy. In any event, you are in the sights of this consumer activist organization. Which of these potential outcomes presents the greatest difficulty for your company to overcome? Which element (s) of the PRSA Code of Ethics are affected? (Select one answer choice.)
Disclosure: Despite the fact that celebrities may not like it to be known that they are paid for these engagements and endorsements, that information should be disclosed and, ideally, the amount of the payment would also be disclosed. While our personal paychecks are often considered very private information, public figures have very little private information, including what they are paid. If this information would help one consumer have the opportunity to pause before they made an important purchase decision, it would be well worth the exposure and effort. Those celebrities who decline to have their pay disclosed might be passed over for those who would.
Misrepresentation is not an element of the PRSA Code of Ethics -- this would fall under honesty.
If "protecting celebrities’ confidences" would have been an answer choice, it, too, would have been incorrect in this scenario. Just because they may want to keep their paid status private, does not mean you should do so. In your negotiations with them and in all written and verbal agreements, you should clearly state your intention to be open about your commercial relationship with them.
You work for a cosmetics company that specializes in marketing its products through department stores and a growing network of “Tupperware”-like parties run by the consultants who work in your department store settings. One of the most successful sales people is Emily Wilson who (for reasons only she knows), after getting a Ph.D. in psychology from a Midwestern university, chooses to work in one of your cosmetic departments. She is very good and a great relationship builder with customers. In fact, many customers call her “Doc.”
A local television station calls and asks about her and her credentials. The reporter seems to think it is pretty cool to have someone like her in a department store cosmetics department. They want to interview customers to see if they really know why she is called “Doc.”
Which provisions of the PRSA Code of Ethics are affected? (Select the two that apply.)
Disclosure: If Ms. Wilson, the beauty technician, continues to allow customers to call her “Doc,” she must affirmatively and regularly clarify, in the customer’s mind, what kind of doctor she is.
Deception: Disclosure is an issue because it prevents deception. Our assumption almost always is that doctors are doctors of medicine. This is doubly important, because, in this case, this person may very well be going into people’s homes with the new home selling parties concept. In that informal atmosphere, it is less likely that Ms. Wilson would clarify her actual status. This is a situation where she absolutely must clarify her status. Besides, the explanation may make a pretty good story.
Moral Issue is not correct because this broad category is not part of the PRSA Code of Ethics. Many ethical issues raise some type of moral issue, but such a broad category in a code of ethics would not be instructive for professional practices.
There is no specific conflict of interest mentioned in this case, so this is not the answer.
You are a senior employee at a large Public Relations firm. You are approached by a colleague and friend at the firm who is also a senior employee. She confides in you that her boss, an executive vice president, told her that that he was going to engage in a business deception. The deception would cost the firm a significant amount of money, but allow the executive vice president to develop an exceptional outcome for a client, which would ultimately be good for the firm. He assured her that senior management would never find out.
She is very uncomfortable; she came to you asking what to do knowing that if she exposed her boss there might be reprisals; from him toward her, from senior management toward her boss, and possibly from senior management toward her if they felt she was equally guilty or if they didn't believe her and thought she was spreading false rumors. You need to decide what to advise her and what, if anything, you should do with this information independent of her actions.
Which two values of the PRSA Ethics Code listed below are most important to take into account?
Honesty: We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent, and that includes our employer or company. The dilemma here asks you to decide if obligation to company supersedes honesty to friends and coworkers. But you also have to consider if the allegation against the supervisor is true -- just because your friend thinks an action might be improper, you should make an effort to determine if there really is wrong-doing planned before potentially destroying someone's reputation with an allegation to higher authorities.
Loyalty: We are faithful to those we represent and to our friends. The same question arises here, loyalty has to be clearly defined and the consequences of your action (or inaction) toward various parties needs to be considered. You need to be loyal to your firm and help it avoid financial damage and damage to its reputation. You need to be loyal to your friend, but you also have to realize that your friend, by disclosing to you the questionable activity, has potentially made you a coconspirator if you take no action. And you have to be loyal to yourself and your personal values of right and wrong.
Another value, Safeguarding Confidences also comes into play here. This is tricky because of a possible conflict of values. On the one hand, honesty demands that you do all you possibly can to prevent wrong doing from taking place and, on the other hand, you should be loyal to your friend and safeguard his (or her) confidence. Confronting the supervisor without revealing your source might be an option, but you must consider that it might still expose your colleague who came to you in trust.
Furthermore, if you pass along the information given to you in confidence, colleagues might stop coming to you with sensitive information, not trusting what you might do with it. Reporting what you heard to the CEO might very well lead to the firing of your colleague. You only have the allegation of one employee. Furthermore, the alleged action has yet to take place.
You should take the necessary steps to prevent the deceptive transaction and recommend to senior management that new financial controls or procedures be established to prevent such an attempt in the future. By preventing the deception and recommending new controls, you are safeguarding the interest of the company, protecting the confidentiality of your friend, and you avoid becoming an involuntary coconspirator in what may well turn out to be an act that breaks rules, regulations, or even laws.
You have been working for the Tourism ministry of a Caribbean country (Client A) for a number of years. In fact, you have established an important reputation based on your work with this country. You are known for it in the industry and are often called upon to speak about issues that are related to this country’s tourism industry. It seems that just about everyone on the island knows who you are and what you do. Now you have been asked, privately, to compete for a major assignment from the Tourism ministry of another Caribbean country (Client B). Clearly, Client B is asking you to make a pitch because of the success you have had with Client A. Client B even seems willing to allow you to continue working with Client A, should you be successful in the competition for this major assignment for Client B. Although the industry in the Caribbean is aware that Client B is looking for special help to resolve their issues, it is customary to keep the identities of the competing firms private until the winner is announced. You get the sense that you are competing with other successful consultancies from the Caribbean or Central American markets.
Which of the following values and provisions of the PRSA Ethics Code are affected? (Select two.)
A. Conflict of interest
Conflict of Interest: While it is the client that ultimately decides what is a conflict of interest, representing both competing clients can create many conflict of interest situations. Imagine that you are contacted by a journalist at the Wall Street Journal who informs you that he is going to do a feature article an a Caribbean country (Client A) and asks your advice as to which other country he should write about in contrast to Client A. What country would you propose? Why? Would you be obligated to always recommend Client A and Client B? In each of these cases, each client would need to be apprised of the opportunities and be allowed to decide which were conflicts and which were not.
You should inform both parties of the situation and ask if either of them have an objection. Only a client can determine if there is a conflict. Your objectivity would be suspect due to your financial interest. The clients should make all conflict determinations. If either or both have a problem, you then decide whether you will keep Client A and not participate in the pitch of Client B or resign the account of Client A and move forward with Client B. You may also create a flanking sister company but you will have to make sure you prohibit all interaction between the two companies, both Client A and Client B must be informed of this approach, and both clients must approve.
Honesty: You have an affirmative obligation to inform Client A that you have been asked to and intend to participate in this competition for Client B. Failure to inform Client A of the possibility that you might be working for Client B, a competitor, is an issue of loyalty and honesty. It is the client that always defines what loyalty is and what it entails. A discussion with Client A could produce a surprising result, e.g., Client A might be very amenable (within certain limitations) to allowing you to work with Client B. Failure to ask, and get clarification and permission, is the unethical conduct here.
In addition is to these issues, other values and provisions of the PRSA Member Code of Ethics come into play:
Disclosure of Information and Protecting Confidential and Private Information:
Disclosure of Information: The intent of the Disclosure of Information provision of the PRSA Code is to both build trust and to avoid deceptive practices. Inevitably, whether you advise Client A, Client B, or both, both clients will find out that you are representing each of them. Serious issues of trust and conflict could be raised, potentially by both clients. You will most certainly lose the trust both clients had in you by being deceptive. Typically, most requests for proposals (RFPs) ask for information to force disclosure of possible conflicting clients. Failing to reveal your relationship with Client A would be deceptive and unethical.
Protecting Confidential and Private Information: Representing two clients who could be competing for the same toursist’s vacation dollar puts you in the position of having strategic information about both clients that could be damaging if it was shared with the other or leaked to other interested parties. While it is always important to protect your clients’ confidential information, it is doubly important in this situation.
An agency employee searched the Web to find information that might be helpful as background for a client presentation. While searching, he located a presentation that was very similar to the one he would be developing. He incorporated three of the pages from the 25-page presentation into his draft; no attribution was given to the original author. Which provision of the PRSA Code of Ethics apply? (Select the one that applies.)
Disclosure: Appropriate credit should have been given to the author of the presentation located from the Web. Although copyright violation is not specifically referred to in the PRSA Code of Ethics, disclosure and honesty are. The use of the three pages goes well beyond the copyright concept of “Fair Use.” Because the author of the presentation had not received appropriate credit and given prior authorization to display, and the agency employee had represented another’s work product as his own, and plagiarism had occurred.
In addition, another provision of the PRSA Member Code of Ethics -- enhancing the profession -- come into play with this example. Building respect and credibility for the public relations profession is the obligation of every ethical practitioner, and is the result of observing the elements of this Code. When the Code, common sense, or sense of rightness is replaced by wrongness, the profession is demeaned and diminished.
The focus of the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards is to enforce the Member Code of Ethics for PRSA members.
Public relations practitioners who voluntarily join a professional community through a formal structured association such as PRSA, agree to bind themselves to a Code of Professional Conduct. The Code establishes guidelines for ethical behavior as defined by the professional group.
BEPS is not a police force. Its role is to educate members about the Code of Ethics and to help members understand how to conduct themselves ethically, especially in these evolving times of media upheaval and technology changes.
A team of employees from a company had a two-day offsite meeting. After the first day of meetings concluded, the group went to dinner at another location. The meeting and dinner included the department manager. The meal was charged to a company card by an employee reporting to that manager. When the meal was expensed, the manager’s name was omitted from the list of attendees to avoid triggering review by the department manager’s boss. Which of the following provisions of the PRSA Code of Ethics come into play? (Select one.)
Disclosure: Proper disclosure should have been made by noting all attendees on the expense report filed with the company. Tax laws these days are pretty clear about these types of activities, especially when they occur outside business hours and normal business activities. Generally, reporting and tax requirements require participants to be listed. In this case, disclosure was intentionally avoided either to protect the manager present at the gathering or to avoid complying with a company rule or regulation.
Although it was not an answer choice, the honesty value was also breached, since the omission of the manager’s name was done to purposely avoid complying with the company’s reporting rules and tax laws requiring disclosure of business meeting attendees. This is a form of dishonesty even though there is no suggestion in this case that the charges submitted were inflated or falsified.
Moral issues are also at play here but they are not a PRSA code provision.
Revealing sponsors of represented causes was a red herring here. It is a provision of the PRSA Code of Ethics, but it doesn’t have anything to do with this case. That provision is to ensure that public relations professionals do not engage in the creation of fake grass roots organization known as front groups or the creation of fake blogs or other communications that suggest that they are created and supported by individuals other than the actual sponsors.
An employee who has a highly visible position within her company also does modeling and acting on the side. She accepted a gig to appear in a TV commercial for a company that competes against one of the subsidiaries of her existing company. She would be able to be seen and heard in the advertisement. Which of the following provisions of the PRSA Code of Ethics are affected? (Select one.)
Disclosure: This problem could have been mitigated easily if she had asked a person in a position of authority in her company, probably her boss, how she might actually do this job in ways that would avoid conflicts with her company’s products, services, and reputation. If the boss had refused permission or denied authorization for her to do it, she would be obligated to turn down the other gig’s offer.
Moral issues are also at play in this scenario but they are not a PRSA Code provision.
In addition, although not an answer choice, conflict of interest, would also come into play. The employee should refuse to appear in advertising that is in direct competition with one of her company’s subsidiaries. An employee should strive to avoid potential conflict of interest situations when choosing to work outside of the company for whom they are employed. Outside work should conform to or enhance the effective performance of existing job responsibilities. The employee could have sought permission and disclose her outside opportunity to her employer. Approval is probably a long shot, but the consequences of the conflict and other ethical issues could have a far greater potential for damage.