Denise Blackburn-Gay, APR, Fellow PRSA
Ethics Officer, South Carolina PRSA

Some actions are clearly wrong. No reasonable person could fail to identify that lying and cheating are unethical. Why then do these actions make headlines nearly every day? Isn’t it interesting that some individuals, including high-ranking politicians and economic leaders, disregard what should be their moral conscious?

Wouldn’t it be great if we were armed with alarm bells that went off in ethically-charged situations, or if we had an inner voice that screamed, “this is wrong, illegal and could irreparably damage my business or career!” Better yet, wouldn’t it be great if there was an app for that—a moral barometer that gauged the ethics of a situation and helped us decide how to react.

Fact is, there isn’t an app for that, and even if there were, all possible ethics conundrums would make finding the correct answer most unlikely.

Avoiding ethical pitfalls requires developing a skill set that will assist you in making strong ethical choices.  Here are three suggestions:

  • Know the rules.  Yes, there are ethics rules. This rings especially true for politicians and those employed by corporations who have strict guidelines. Aside from rules and regulations, rely on your gut instinct. We all morally know right from wrong.
  • Be in-the-know. Keep up-to-date on ethics-related news. In addition, the Public Relations Society of America offers education including blogs, case studies, and webinars that will keep you on the cutting edge. Check out these links:
  • Think first.  Before hitting send or commenting on a situation, try to imagine how your comment might look if were published.  Does it add or detract from your credibility? Adding the question “is this appropriate?” to your mental checklist can help you prevent a routine decision from becoming an ethical dilemma.

PS:  While there’s not an app that acts as a moral barometer, PRSA does offer a membership app that includes the PRSA Code of Ethics.  The app is free and can be accessed from iPhone, iPad, and Android devices Download it here.  

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