Ethical Standards to Uphold in Your PR Agency

By: Patrice Berry

A PR agency has a responsibility to improve their client’s public perception. That is what it is getting paid to do. Keeping that in mind, it is also important that the agency upholds a set of ethical principles. Not only for the sake of its own public perception, but to maintain a healthy, internal company culture.

Acknowledging the diversity of your colleagues is the first step to building this company culture. Their experiences have shaped the views and ideals that influence their input. The beauty of public relations is in the collaborative effort vital to execute the client’s goal. This amalgamation of ideas must lead to an agreed upon product – a team must reach common ground. And the foundation for developing common ground is dependent on the agency’s ethics.

The Public Relations Society of America – the nation’s leading PR trade association – created a code of ethics handbook. The Board of Ethics and Practice Standards handbook features “six indications that your company has an ethical culture.” If an agency as a whole stands by these statements, it is on the right track to becoming more respected and thus, sought after.

The message comes from the top.

The individuals mainly responsible for the agency – CEOs, directors, managers – are public representatives of the agency. Therefore, it is their responsibility to communicate the message of their agency accordingly.

Management leads by example, so “walk the talk.”

Those in a leadership position should hold themselves to the same standard they hold for their agency. 

Policies are enforced.

Established company guidelines must be upheld across the board. Those who have complete disregard of those standards should be held accountable.

All employees are treated fairly, irrespective of their status within the organization.

This is self-explanatory. Someone’s position in an agency, high or low, should never be a means of justifying unfair treatment.

Employees feel free to speak up without fear of retaliation.

A company’s culture is at its peak when everyone feels comfortable enough to contribute. The fear of retaliation should be replaced with the understanding that communicated ideas are open to constructive criticism. 

“A company’s culture is at its peak when everyone feels comfortable enough to contribute.”

It is easy to do the right thing and difficult to do the wrong thing.

There will never be an absolute right or an absolute wrong thing to do. But weighing the options to determine what is in the best interest of the public, the client and your agency will be the easiest way to go about a situation.

As PR practitioners, we ultimately want to determine what is right for the client. Having agency standards can set the tone for its reputational goals. Companies and organizations whose ethical values resonate with yours are ideal client candidates. And agencies that have a unified set of ethics have a company culture that can allow every employee to create their best work.


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