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Journalism ethics versus public relations ethics

By Jordan McCrary

15034548_sHow do we ensure that communication pros abide by their codes of ethics?

Both the journalism and public relations industries have always struggled with negative reputations. People have been calling PR practitioners “spin doctors” for decades, and, as the era of fake news fell upon us, it changed the face of journalism. Despite unfortunate widespread beliefs, both PR pros and journalists follow strict codes of ethics in their work.

The most notable difference between journalism ethics and public relations ethics is in the audience each practice serves. Journalists work to serve the public and focus on their right to accurate information. PR professionals work to serve their clients’ messages.

The Public Relations Society of America, the nation’s largest association for PR and communications professionals, has a code of ethics that it requires of all members. It includes a list of professional values to follow: advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, and fairness. The code also addresses how to ethically handle conflicts of interest, disclosure of information, free flow of information, and more.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization. Like PRSA, one of the most important practices of SPJ members is upholding the highest ethical values. The SPJ code of ethics has four main values: seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent.

While the audience for each group of professionals is different, they both seek to work honestly and with integrity. In addition to professional organizations like PRSA and SPJ, many companies have their own set of values that all employees must abide by in their work. For example, one of Axia Public Relations’ core values is integrity. The pillar of integrity includes doing the right thing and working ethically and earnestly. Does your organization have its own set of values? Is acting ethically one of them? If it isn’t, start a conversation in order to figure out how it could be.

Although their purposes are different, journalists and PR pros have a unique opportunity to work together to ensure consumers and organizations get the high-quality and ethical information that they need.

Is your PR firm following a strict code of ethics? Are you satisfied with your investment? If you can’t answer yes to these questions, it’s time to partner with a new PR firm. For tips on firing your current PR agency, download Axia’s complimentary e-book “How to Fire Your PR Firm” today.

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IMG_9349Jordan McCrary is a senior public relations student at the University of Florida. She serves as the president of the UF chapter of PRSSA. She also works as an account executive at The Agency at UF and as a communications assistant for the Institute for Public Relations. Go Gators!


Featured image credit: 123rf.com 

Topics: ethics, earned media

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