Be Prepared: September is PRSA’s Ethics Month

PRSA’s theme for Ethics Month is “Be Prepared.” It’s an appropriate theme because September is also FEMA’s National Preparedness Month – another campaign with a personal preparedness message. Leave it to public relations professionals to newsjack an existing national preparedness campaign. Hey, why not?

Being prepared involves knowing your risks and planning how you will respond should a problem arise. Whether you’re putting together a supply kit to use if the power goes out this hurricane season or planning how you will respond if your client or employer asks you to compromise your integrity, taking the time to plan for difficulties will make it easier to overcome them, should they occur. You can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you react.

Below are some tools you can use to add to your ethics preparedness toolbox:

If You Have Five Minutes

Read a blog post on There will be posts about ethics throughout September:

  • Week 1: “Ethics and You: Leading the Way,” with Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA
  • Week 2: “Personal Ethics Assessment,” with Bob Frause, APR, Fellow PRSA
    • Are you living what you ethically advised?
    • What is a good “Ethical life?” Where are the areas you are not willing to differ from your personal code of ethics?
  • Week 3: “Ethical Decision-Making Models,” with Kathy Fitzpatrick, J.D.  and Diana Session (two separate blogs)
  • Week 4:Building Relationships and Credibility as an Ethics Counselor,” with Marlene Neill, Ph.D., APR

Read an article:

If You Have 10-15 Minutes

Review presentation slides and watch a video:

The March 28 PRSA Richmond luncheon “Ethical Breaches” featured communication and marketing thought leader, consultant and educator Jacqueline Strayer. Download (PDF) her presentation slides or, if you are a PRSA Richmond member, log-in to the PRSA Richmond website to download the presentation. One of the last slides has a link to an NPR story and video highlighting a speech given at a U.S. Air Force Academy prep school following a 2017 incident involving racism on campus.

If You Have an Hour

Participate in a live webinar Sept. 13 at 3 p.m.: How to Prepare a Personal Crisis Plan with Debra L. Bethard-Caplick, APR and Bobbi J. Simmons, APR. PR practitioners must sometimes make tough decisions when faced with job-related dilemmas. How do you call out unethical or even unlawful behavior on the part of employer or client without damaging your own career at the same time?

By the end of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Create a crisis preparedness plan
  • Recognize key situations that require advance preparation to preserve a person’s reputation
  • Vet future career opportunities based on adherence to the PRSA Code of Ethics
  • Handle the aftermath of an ethics-based career crisis you didn’t create.

Participate in a nationwide Twitter chat about ethics. (Use the hashtag #EthicsMonth and tag @PRSARVA in your posts to let everyone know you are a member of the PRSA Richmond Chapter)

  • Sept. 4 at 8 p.m.: Ethics Counsel Today: No Boundaries: Moderated by Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, with Ella Minty Member of the Board of Directors, Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and Co-Chair CIPR Energy Leadership Platform. Join PRSA and public relations colleagues around the world as we examine and discuss the ways in which…and the reasons why…communicators today have to be ever mindful of varying perceptions of what constitutes ethical practice. Ella Minty is a London-based management consultant specializing in risk and reputation management.  University lecturer, public speaker and published author, Ella has almost 20 years’ experience working for international governments, institutions and multinational businesses with a focus on investment markets, lender organizations, national and international media, and non-governmental organizations.
  • Sept. 18 at 8 p.m.: PR Ethics Curriculum: Hosted by the PRSA Educators Academy/ Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) PR Division & AEJMC Media Ethics Division and featuring BEPS Member Marlene S. Neill, PhD, APR. Dr. Neill is an assistant professor at Baylor University and teaches courses in public relations and advertising. She has published a book and 17 articles in journals such as Journal of Media Ethics, Public Relations Review, Journal of Advertising Education and Journal of Communication Management.

Watch an on-demand webinar:

  • Incorporating Ethics in the Public Relations Classroom: Tips, tools and resources for communications educators (available until Sept. 14): For those who are training the next generation of communicators, you should catch this webinar before it is no longer available. In this webinar, three leading public relations scholars discuss how they incorporate ethical topics into their public relations classes. They offer teaching techniques and resources that can help increase meaningful classroom discussions about ethical issues.
  • The Ethical Expectations of Leadership (available until Sept. 19): Leaders and especially those who advise and counsel them must recognize the ethical expectations of everyone inside and outside the organization. Failure to meet these expectations has palpable negative consequences. This program discusses the expectations and the consequences of failure to meet those expectations. 

Dawn Eischen, APR, is PRSA Richmond’s Ethics Officer. She has been a public relations professional for nearly 20 years, largely as a spokesperson for public safety organizations. She recently joined the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority as a PR Manager.