Monday, September 21, 2015

PRSA'S Take on Conflicts of Interest

Blaise Weber

The Public Relations Society of America, or better known as PRSA, provides guidelines when determining if a conflict of interest exists. In the article Common Ethical Issues in Public Relations, the University of Oregon's school of journalism and communication discuss what in particular is a conflict of interest, and how to avoid them. The article as stated before refers to standards set by the PRSA, and how do follow them. The only thing I ask is whether or not theses standards are reasonable to to live up to?

To go into any of this I think it must be made clear what a conflict of interest is. The article describes a conflict of interest is situation where a professional has interests, either professional or personal, that interfere with an obligation to the job. A conflict of the sort can come in many different forms. The factors come from family, compensation, private interests, and other external forces.

The article gives ways to mitigate conflicts of interests, and the ideas are reasonable, but I ask if it fair to expect a PR person to always adhere to these things. Disclosure is always expected by those in the PR field, but is it always fair to expect someone to disclose private information? If a PR professional is hired to promote something he or she isn't fond of, why can't they still do their job to the best of their ability. I've had to do things I didn't agree with, but was still able to do it. Disclosure is often necessary, but I just argue that it doesn't always impact someone's ability to do a job.

The next suggestion was for one with a conflict of interest is expected to recuse from the situation. This isn't fair to me in every situation. A conflict of interest can be an issue, but as stated before it doesn't always impact the ability to do a job. People working in the PR field need work like everyone else, so is it fair to ask to expect a PR professional to give up a job over what might be a small conflict of interest. I think a professional is more than capable or realizing that personal interests have to be set aside, so why should the professional have to give up an opportunity?

Ethics codes are suggested to help outline what is ethical and unethical when dealing with conflicts of interests. Any PR firm that doesn't want to risk anything with their professionals should probably have a code to make clear what they see as a conflict of interest. Some firms may see these conflicts as less of an issue than other firms, but it is the duty of the firm to use such a code to define a conflict of interest, and what is expected of an employee when arises.

The PRSA's main principle on conflicts of interests goes as follows: Avoiding real, potential, or perceived conflicts of interests builds trust with clients, employers, and the public.

I think this is the only way to look at conflicts of interests that is fair to everyone. At the end of the day, Public Relations is a business. In any business, the objective is to make money. I certainly feel that it isn't always right to expect such high standards from a PR especially when a conflict of interest might not affect one's ability to do a job. But for business reasons, A professional is going to have to do what is necessary to succeed in any field. We don't always get to make the rules. Sometimes it's just important to live by them.

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