Global Principles of Ethical Practice in Public Relations and Communication Management

As public relations and communication practitioners, we have the opportunity to influence organisations and people. With that comes great responsibility.

We underline the purpose of organisations and we have a duty to act in the best interests of society.

Ethical practice in public relations should not be in question, but in times of fake news, underhand business techniques and through data and privacy misuse, our profession consistently has to remind practitioners to put ethics at the heart of everything we do.

I was delighted to hear from Jean Valin who has led a project with a taskforce on behalf of the Global Alliance to develop new Global Principles of Ethical Practice in Public Relations and Communication Management. CIPR welcomed the ethics pledge last autumn.

Today, members of the Global Alliance and IABC have announced sixteen principles that should be covered in every code of ethics:

Guiding principles

  1. Working in the public interest
  2. Obeying laws and respect diversity and local customs
  3. Freedom of speech
  4. Freedom of assembly
  5. Freedom of media
  6. Honesty, truth and fact-based communication
  7. Integrity
  8. Transparency and disclosure
  9. Privacy

Principles of professional practice

  1. Commitment to continuous learning and training
  2. Avoiding conflict of interest
  3. Advocating for the profession
  4. Respect and fairness in dealing with publics
  5. Expertise without guarantee of results beyond capacity
  6. Behaviours that enhance the profession
  7. Professional conduct

Members of the task force included representatives from:

Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)

Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS)

Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ)

Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA)

International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO)

International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)

Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) United Kingdom and Middle East North Africa

Ethical practice in public relations

As a Chartered Institute, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ (CIPR) Royal Charter sets out, specifically, that the CIPR has to “adopt and publish professional and ethical standards relevant to the practice of public relations and to maintain procedures for the regulation of members’ professional conduct and discipline”.

All members of the CIPR are held accountable through its Code of Conduct and similarly, the PRCA has its own Code of Conduct for members. All members of the Global Alliance (60+ organisations) will be reviewing their codes of ethics to determine if they align with the new global principles. The Global Alliance has updated its own 2003 code (2018 GA new code of ethics) to reflect the new Global Principles.

Resources

Recognising the importance of putting principles and codes into practice, the task force also has assembled a repository of critical resources (Ethics resources 2018) such as case studies, podcasts, newsletters and advisories culled from the members of the Alliance and other organisations.

What now?

By launching the new principles, it is hoped that there will be better ethical practice in public relations and communication management. The problem we face is that public relations has no barriers to entry. This means that anyone can set up as a practitioner without having any theory knowledge or practical skills. It also means that people aren’t required to join an industry body to be able to practice, which in turn means that they aren’t held accountable by a code of conduct.

I fell into public relations over 17 years ago but I did join the CIPR and over the last 12+ years, I’ve committed to continued professional development and I went all the way to becoming Chartered.

I would urge anyone who is looking to work in public relations to join a professional industry body such as CIPR or PRCA, or if you’re a client looking to contract a PR consultant or agency, please ensure that they are members of a professional industry body. If you want to be extra sure of the standards you will receive, make sure the consultant/practitioner is Chartered!

You can read about my journey to becoming a Chartered PR practitioner here.