Skip to main content
Add Me To Your Mailing List
HomeCode of Ethics


Minnesota PRSA Ethics Officer, 2024-2025

Joel Swanson, APR, MACT
Vice President, Marketing
Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union
Phone: 651-442-3765

Ethics: A Critical Competency for Your Career

Public relations stands in a unique leadership precipice, as its senior-level advisors often own results for a wide range of critical business drivers, including crisis communications, corporate social responsibility, employee communications, executive communications, reputation management and more. A core of ethics and ethical topics informs and builds toward each of those strategic topics. Yet industry research shows that practitioners are functionally unprepared for the career-defining moments of ethical decision-making. (chart at right reprinted with permission of Marlene Neill)


To support the need for ethical foundation in the practice of public relations and its related disciplines, PRSA created its first code of ethics in 1950, adding a grievance board to investigate complaints in 1962. Over the next 20+ years, the grievance board evolved its focus from enforcement to advocacy and education – eventually becoming the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS), which continues today to promote the ethical foundations and best practices of our industry. 

More than 40 percent of PRSA chapters designate Ethics Officers to apply locally the reach of BEPS, the PRSA Code of Ethics, and our industry’s focus on ethical foundations.

Minnesota PRSA Ethics Officer Resource
If you face an ethical dilemma, and most of us have or soon will, you can contact your ethics officer to discuss the situation. Your chapter ethics officer can discuss with you ethical principles, practices and standards of conduct in the day-to-day practice of public relations. All conversations are confidential. If desired, your ethics officer can convene an informal group of chapter or national leaders to help address your issues.


PRSA Code of Ethics
The current PRSA Code of Ethics is designed to guide PRSA members as they carry out their ethical responsibilities. It’s based on the application and anticipation of living out six primary values: Advocacy, Honesty, Expertise, Independence, Loyalty, Fairness. 

The six provisions of PRSA’s code of ethics and examples:

Free flow of information

  • A member representing a ski manufacturer gives a pair of expensive racing skis to a sports magazine columnist, to influence the columnist to write favorable articles about the product.
  • A member entertains a government official beyond legal limits and/or in violation of government reporting requirements. 


  • A member employed by a “client organization” shares helpful information with a counseling firm that is competing with others for the organization’s business.
  • A member spreads malicious and unfounded rumors about a competitor in order to alienate the competitor’s clients and employees in a ploy to recruit people and business.

Disclosure of information

  • Front groups: A member implements “grass roots” campaigns or letter-writing campaigns to legislators on behalf of undisclosed interest groups.
  • Lying by omission: A practitioner for a corporation knowingly fails to release financial information, giving a misleading impression of the corporation’s performance.
  • A member discovers inaccurate information disseminated via a website or media kit and does not correct the information.
  • A member deceives the public by employing people to pose as volunteers to speak at public hearings and participate in “grass roots” campaigns.

Safeguarding confidences

  • A member changes jobs, takes confidential information, and uses that information in the new position to the detriment of the former employer.
  • A member intentionally leaks proprietary information to the detriment of some other party.

Conflicts of interest

  • The member fails to disclose that he or she has a strong financial interest in a client’s chief competitor.
  • The member represents a “competitor company” or a “conflicting interest” without informing a prospective client.

Enhancing the profession

  • A PRSA member declares publicly that a product the client sells is safe, without disclosing evidence to the contrary.
  • A member initially assigns some questionable client work to a non-member practitioner to avoid the ethical obligation of PRSA membership.


 Important Resources:

Ethical Reflections and Stories

Coming soon!

Latest Programming and Topics

Ethics Quiz

Think you’re ready? Take the Ethics Quiz and test your knowledge (must be a PRSA member and login):