August 13, 2009

Who’s the most ethical of them all?

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" at 8:40 am by R

A new paper “The Moral Development of Public Relations Practitioners: A Comparison with Other Professions and Influences on Higher Quality Ethical Reasoning” written by some of the brilliant minds at Penn State’s Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication, definitively states that PR practitioners aren’t B.S. artists.

This study examined the moral compasses for people in 19 professions by administering a a test where respondents answered on a scale the importance of decision-making with relation to a dozen different ethical scenarios.

After all the results were tallied, public relations practitioners scored high in the same bracket with medical students, practicing physicians, journalists, dental students and nurses.

PR practitioners weren’t tops on the list…that honor goes to seminarians and philosophers. (And frankly you’re not very good at either of these professions if you don’t earn high marks on an ethics test! Morality is sort of their bread and butter.)

Who ranked the lowest? If you thought criminals or politicians you’re close but no cigar — it’s junior high school students. What hormones-raging, Jo-Bros-obsessed teen can really be bothered with moral fiber anyway? The study notes that this result explains why teens still need the guidance of their parents — even though they know everything already. 🙂

So what does this study mean for public relations practitioners?  Well, in a day and age where we are perceived as low-down-and-dirty scoundrels (at worst), it’s a little bit of vindication. Especially when journalists are giving us more flack (pun intended), we need a little ammo to turn that perception around. Here’s the trick. You can’t just throw this study out at everyone who challenges your ethical nature — you actually have to live and practice PR like a deeply moral person.

Actions speak louder than words after all…

So it seems that the brand of the PR practitioner has been tainted by a few bad apples who have lost their moral compass. The rest of us who preach credibility, humility and authenticity to our clients ought to up the ante on representing those PR brand characteristics ourselves.

~R

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1 Comment »

  1. […] in Industry Standards, Social Media at 9:40 am by R A few posts back, I addressed the ethical ranking of public relations professionals. And frankly, we’re a […]


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