Ethics is as Ethics Does


By: Sarah Copeland

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I’m never sure what leads someone to make a bad decision, especially when the decision is obviously bad. Is it desperation that leads someone to do unethical things? Or do they just flat-out not care about their actions? More than anything I wonder how people still think that they can get away with their bad actions. At least in the field of public relation, people who make unethical decisions almost always get caught.

However, I think a problem arises when considering that, when it comes to ethics, everyone has a different opinion. Another problem is that the idea of “right” and “wrong” is not black and white. A grey area exists.

To help fix that problem, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has a special code of ethics designed for professionals in the PR field.  This code of ethics helps navigate the grey area of issues that require important decisions. However, it is important to remember that the best way to practice PR is to remain honest and transparent and, well, ethical.

There are people that believe PR professionals have no morals and have a career based on their skills at lying. There is no short list of examples of unethical practitioners that perpetuate this belief. Something to keep in mind, though, is that there is no amount of money that can make an unethical decision worth a good reputation. Money can be earned and lost easily, your reputation, though, cannot be so easily recovered.

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Here are a few questions that PR practitioners will be faced with in their career:

Would I lie for my employer in order to promote a product that I know cannot do what it is invented to do?

Will I issue a news release with only partial truth?

Will I talk bad about the competition in order to promote my client?

Would I quit my job rather than participate in a questionable activity?

In short, how far can a PR professional compromise their personal morals whilst doing their job? Sometimes they are even faced with harder choices. What is worse is that jobs are becoming more and more difficult to maintain. Unemployment is a possible result of choosing the ethical route.

Sometimes in PR and even everyday life, difficult issues come up and require hard choices. In the end, it’s up to the individual to make the right or wrong decision. When it comes to making a hard choice I usually think about what would be best for everyone. There is a question that people can ask themselves to help make hard decisions easier: what would my mother think of me if I made this decision? This works really well, at least for me. My mom taught me how to have good morals and I hope that will keep me on the right path throughout my career.


Bowen, S. (2007, October 30). Ethics and Public Relations | Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from

Ethical Guidance for Today’s Public Relations Practitioners from PRSA. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2016, from

Jamison, A. (2013, September 9). Are you familiar with the PRSA Code of Ethics? Retrieved February 26, 2016, from

Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Member Code of Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2016, from

Reputation management. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2016, from

W.(2008, January). Public Relations: The Ethical Dilemma. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from


PR and Journalism: It’s A Long-term Relationship

By: Sarah Copeland

I have to admit, when I decided on public relations I came into the major rather clueless. What I mean is I had no prior knowledge of this field and still made the choice. I had turned down every other major listed in the UNT course options. I came across public relations, read the description, said, “yeah, that sounds like something I could do” and basically decided my future with that thought. Since then I have constantly been amazed with how many different areas of PR exist.

One subset of PR that I’ve talked about often this week is Media Relations. This career isn’t really my intended PR focus and it’s not what I am most interested in, but I will admit that I hadn’t viewed in very seriously until this semester. The perception of media relations is far from accurate. Many difficulties occur between PR specialists and the journalists they communicate with. Without trust and respect for each other’s work, communicating isn’t easy.

Probably the number one thing media relations is NOT is constantly writing press releases and emailing them to journalists with the expectation that it will get media coverage. Communicating with journalists takes much more than sending out press releases or media kits. It’s called media RELATIONS for a reason. Building relationships takes time and effort and even more to be on good terms with journalists.

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What stands out to me is that, at the college level, both public relations students and journalism students start out taking the same courses. I had to take news writing courses and other journalism courses because both majors are considered journalism courses, at least at my college. Here’s what is incredible to me: even though we both have the same start line, journalists don’t trust PR people and PR people don’t trust journalists. PR specialists fear what the journalists will chose to report and journalists fear that the PR specialists will either hide information or be dishonest.

I can’t say how journalists can help make this necessary relationship easier, but I can give a few tips for the other future PR pros out there. First, don’t waste their time. In media relations you should always be aware that journalists have deadlines and those time limits should be respected. This is also relevant to emails or phone calls. Make the point and then follow up with them later, they have other news sources as well. Next, don’t become frustrated if they write a negative story about something you pitched to them, even if the information is false. Finally, be honest and available. As PR practitioners we should always be honest and we should also be able to get in contact with.

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All of these tips can be taken as ways to maintain good relationships with the media and they are best practices for PR anyways so take note.



Dougherty, J. (2015, February 23). 7 Ways to Build Better Relationships With Journalists | Cision. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from

Himler, P. (2013, March 14). The Journalist And The PR Pro: A Broken Marriage? Retrieved February 19, 2016, from

Media Relations – SHIFT Communications PR Agency – Boston | New York | San Francisco | Austin. (2015). Retrieved February 19, 2016, from

Obrien, A. (2014, September 19). Public Relations Vs. Media Relations – What’s the Difference? Retrieved February 19, 2016, from

Reed, V. M. (2014, June 6). 5 Media Relations Challenges PR Pros Face. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from

An Around the Clock Gig

By: Sarah Copeland

My mom was always a hard working teacher. I remember seeing her at the kitchen table every night grading papers. She still, to this day, sits at the kitchen table and grades papers. She never took a break. Even on vacations, over spring or winter break, she would bring a pile of papers to grade with her. One thing she told me was to never, ever, become a teacher. Her reasoning? She wanted me to be able to come home and sit on the couch like my dad could.

Well, that didn’t exactly happen. I didn’t become a teacher, but I did choose a career path that has no guarantee of relaxation at the end of the work day.

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Any professional in the field of PR will tell you that thing have changed. PR cannot be done the way it used to be, it is simply not the same. Now, it’s an around the clock gig.

With the rise in social media, and honestly technology in general, news never stops. That means problems always happen and therefore, somebody always needs to be aware of those issues. PR professionals need to know what is going on, all the time. It’s a 24/7 job, plain and simple.

As part of my classes my professor wanted all of us to be ready for crises at any moment. She told us that, as part of this career, we may have to work weekends with no forewarning. She prompted us with a crisis drill. All of us who were aware (aka had our emails linked to our phones) saw that she had posted a drill and we had to solve it within 24 hours. Lucky me, I have work that day. Of course, at least hopefully, I won’t have another job when I go into the field of PR.

The point is, in PR, you never know when something is going to happen and require your attention and work. This isn’t something you can leave at the office. This isn’t something you can forget about when the weekend arrives. It is truly a 24/7 job that never stops.

At least I’ll never be bored!


Public Relations Graduate Working Hours. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2016, from

Public Relations is a 24/7 Task. (2010). Retrieved February 12, 2016, from

Rebeck, G. (2015, November 25). 24/7 Public Relations. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from,-Advertising,-PR-and-Media/24-7-Public-Relations

Transparency and Truth, Not Spin

JOUR 4460 Blog #3

By: Sarah Copeland


As a college student, meeting new people comes with rather repetitious small talk. The conversation that contains that one question everyone always asks: What’s your major?

My answer for the past two years has been public relations. The slightly surprising part is that a majority of people don’t know what PR is all about. Several encounters have ended with me trying to explain, to the best of my ability, all the things PR includes. Other people, about five actually, have interrupted my explanations to say something along the lines of, “oh, you mean the people who defend bad things by spinning the information” or “so you must be really good at lying and getting out of trouble.”


First let me say that I was always a good kid. I followed the rules and I honestly don’t think I ever rebelled against my parents. There was one time I accidentally burned a hole in the carpet. I was playing around with a candle lighter and I was being stupid. But I was a kid and I made a mistake, it happens. I didn’t try and talk my way out of it. I didn’t make a big fuss or say someone else was to blame. I ended up telling my dad exactly what happened, apologized for it and said I would never use the lighter again for anything but lighting candles.  I was terrified that my dad would be super angry, but he wasn’t.

This is a good analogy for what PR should be like. If something goes wrong, be honest, apologize and clear the air. But, people don’t realize this. For the amount of people I’ve met who have known nothing about PR, there seem to be many clichés about what PR professionals do. The idea of studying a skill in order to lie and cheat your way out of trouble, along with some other things, is exactly what I hope PR isn’t and the complete opposite of what I’m being taught.

Two of my classes this semester, more than the others, are teaching me how to prepare for my future career in the best way possible. Crisis communication is one of the courses, PR communications is the other. Both teach respectable values: know what needs to be done to reach your goals, and, if something goes wrong, be honest and solve the problem to repair the damage.

My goal as a PR professional is to maintain respectable and long-lasting relationships. I am passionate about my career choice because I will have the ability to influence publics in a positive way through discussion and engagement, not lies and spin. If there is anything I’ve learned from my studies it’s that transparency and honesty are vital to maintaining a good reputation and loyal supporters.

I hope someday everyone will stop associating PR with spin and instead recognize PR as an honest industry. At least it should be.


Barrett, S. (2014, October 24). How to persuade The New York Times that PR is not about spin. Retrieved February 06, 2016, from

To Spin Or Not To Spin | PRWeb. (n.d.). Retrieved February 06, 2016, from

Wightman, J. (2011, April). 20 things PR is NOT. Retrieved February 06, 2016, from