Ethics is as Ethics Does


By: Sarah Copeland

Ethics pic 1 Image Source

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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Image Source

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


Author: Sarah Copeland

I am a Strategic Communications student at the University of North Texas majoring in Public Relations with a minor in European History. I expect to graduate May 2017 and find a career in External Relations maybe focusing on Issues Management. I am also a proud member of my Alpha Delta Pi chapter where I hold the Intramural's officer position. I am also a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society as well as the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. When I am not attending classes, I work in retail. I am a former manager at Justice Just for Girls where I worked for over two years until my store closed. I am currently working for Gymboree as a Sales Lead manager. My work is enjoyable most when I am able to help customers and also when interesting conversations arise. In my free time I enjoy reading fiction novels, completing jigsaw puzzles, watching movies, playing practically any sport, and eating as much ice cream and and other desserts as possible.

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