Posts tagged ‘ethics’

The Ethical Choices of Public Relations Professionals

When faced with an ethical dilemma, public relations professionals ultimately have four choices available to them: avoidance, compliance, ignorance and resignation.

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The most ethical choice can sometimes be to avoid answering a question. If you are faced with a question that would require you to make a difficult ethical decision, keep in mind that you should not force yourself into an ethical dilemma unless you really must.

When asked by a principal to engage in an activity that is unethical some public relations professionals, especially those who are young, will simply comply out of loyalty. This is always a poor choice that will typically lead to the destruction of one’s reputation, if not worse.

Traditional public relations practices have called for professionals learning as much as they could about a principal, particularly whenever they are faced with an Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchethical crisis. In some cases the most appropriate and ethical course of action would be to not ask questions during an ongoing crisis. Remember that public relations specialists are not entitled to attorney-client privilege. As a result, you can find yourself facing serious legal difficulties if you become caught up in a legal investigation and then you are forced to reveal secrets that would violate your duty of loyalty to your principal. This is precisely why some public relations practitioners choose to avoid asking difficult questions. In this case, ignorance can be used as an effective shield of protection.

Some ethics experts will contend that whenever a professional is not able to fulfill his duty to his principal and his duty to society at the same time, there is simply no other choice but to resign. Resigning on principle is rather rare today; generally because it is not that easy to simply walk away from a job. And when an employee resigns on principle there is a clear message sent that his or her employer is engaging in unethical practices. Sending such a message, even unintentionally, can be dangerously close to violating your responsibilities to your employer.

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Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 13.5 Ethical Choices.

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Code of Ethics for Lobbyists

Lobbyists should be familiar with the code of ethics adopted by the American League of Lobbyists (ALL), which provides basic guidelines and standards for the conduct of lobbyists.

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Honesty and Integrity
Lobbyists should always be truthful in their communications with public officials and with all other interested parties.

Compliance with Laws, Regulations and Rules
Lobbyists should always make certain they are familiar with and comply with all laws, regulations and rules that apply to them.

Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna GelakLobbyists must conduct their lobbying activities in a manner that is fair and professional.

Conflicts of Interest
Lobbyists should not undertake any representations that may establish conflicts of interest without the informed consent of the client that is involved.

Due Diligence and Best Efforts
Lobbyists should always diligently and vigorously advocate for the interests of their clients.

Compensation and Engagement Terms
Independent lobbyists who are retained by clients should always have a written agreement with the client regarding the terms and conditions for their services.

Lobbyists should always maintain appropriate levels of confidentiality of all employer and/or client information.

Public Education
Lobbyists should seek to ensure the public has a better understanding and appreciation of lobbying within the governmental process.

Duty to Governmental Institutions
Along with fulfilling their duties and responsibilities to their employer or client, lobbyists should always ensure they exhibit only the most proper respect for all governmental institutions.

The ALL Code of Ethics has been designed to ensure that lobbying is undertaken in the most proper and appropriate manner possible. It is important that government officials be able to receive information from affected interests that is factual and be aware of the views of those parties in order to make policy judgments that are well informed. The Code of Ethics works toward preserving and advancing public trust and confidence in democratic institutions and the public policy advocacy process. Professional lobbyists should recognize that they have a strong obligation to conduct themselves in the highest moral and ethical manner possible in all of their dealings with public officials and all other parties. While the Code of Ethics is only intended to apply to independent lobbyists, all lobbyists should seek to practice the highest ethical conduct possible in their lobbying efforts.

To learn more about working with Congress, consider Strategies for Working with Congress and our Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Appendix 6: Lobbyists’ Code of Ethics.

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