Learning Ethics: Transparency via Internships


As a public relations professional, abiding by a certain code of ethics is extremely important. The Public Relations Society of America has been celebrating “Ethics Awareness Month” throughout September, and their theme this year is “Ethics Every Day.” Day in and day out, PR professionals are faced with ethical dilemmas that require them to constantly be on their toes. Most of the time, PR professionals are working for multiple clients, so they need to be aware of any conflicts of interest that may occur.

When I was coming up with ideas for this blog post, I was confronted with my first ethical dilemma that I have experienced within my time at Tehama Group Communications.

To provide some background, I work for a company called EPIC Productions. Our company promotes various electronic music shows in Chico and the Bay Area. My role is to hand out fliers, hang up posters, promote the show via social media, and overall do anything I can to get people to attend the show.

Now here is where my situation arose. I love music and writing about music, so I thought I would write a blog post reviewing an electronic music show sponsored by EPIC Productions at the Senator Theatre this past weekend. I was going to cover everything from how the show itself went, to how PR was used to promote it. However, because I work for both EPIC Productions and TGC, there was potential to create a conflict of interest.

Essentially, I would be promoting one of the companies I work for via the other. From both a PR professional and journalist’s standpoint, this does not go over well in the eyes of the public. I know for a fact that I would have written a good review about the show because I would never want to make EPIC Productions look bad. Even if something went wrong, I probably would have found a way to turn it into a positive. The post would have been extremely biased, and that looks bad for both of the companies I work for, as well as myself. Because of this, I chose what was best for both companies and was inspired to write this blog instead.

From this experience, I learned that no matter how small something may seem, it could potentially blow up into something much larger. I was simply going to write about something I loved, and didn’t think anything of it. I could have damaged the reputation of both EPIC Productions and TGC with one simple blog post. As a board member of PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards once said “If you don’t live and breathe ethics in your public relations career on a daily basis, you may overlook inauspicious ethical missteps that can later breed disaster.”

By Shane Smith, General Manager