Saturday, May 17, 2008

PRSA/BEPS Statement on Meijer

The Public Relations Society of America and its Board of Ethical and Professional Standards (BEPS) issued this statement on the Meijer/SST case yesterday, May 16:

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PRSA/BEPS Statement on Meijer Case
Involving Michigan Campaign Finance Act

NEW YORK (May 16, 2008) – The Public Relations Society of America’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards is continuing to review the facts surrounding the Meijer/Acme Township Conciliation Agreement with the Michigan Secretary of State and the role public relations professionals may have played in the events and actions leading up to this agreement.

While the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) has no authority to issue sanctions or penalties against a member of the Society, it is important to draw members’ attention to real-world situations that can be used as ethical learning experiences. The facts, stated in the Meijer Conciliation Agreement and the local media, indicate that some professional actions were clearly contrary to the spirit of the PRSA Code of Ethics’ professed values of transparency, openness and honesty. It would appear that the intent was not to educate the public to help make an informed decision but rather influence the voters in an undisclosed and unethical fashion.

As “ethical practice is the most important obligation of a PRSA member,” we should affirm that the best course of action for an ethical practitioner is to counsel against activities such as undisclosed front groups and remind clients that honesty and transparency are fundamental to ethical business practices. BEPS has affirmed this counsel to members in its Practice Standards Advisories PSA #3 and PSA #7.

Currently, there have been no findings of criminal or civil wrongdoing by anyone involved in the Meijer case. PRSA members understand however that “those who have been or are sanctioned by a government agency or convicted in a court of law of an action that is in opposition to the PRSA Code of Ethics may be barred from membership or expelled from the Society.” (PRSA Code of Ethics Member Pledge)

2 comments:

stammer said...

"Ginny Seyferth, the founder of Seyferth Spaulding Tennyson, said she wasn't aware of the statement or the organization's ongoing review." (Quote from GR PRESS, May 20, 2008)

Is this a pattern of responses from GS: changed her cell phone number, employee didn't have it, not aware of this, not aware of that...

I'm not in PR, but I guess I'd expect more substantial responses from a professional.

Tim, I'm curious what you think.

Tim Penning, APR said...

Thanks for the comment, Stammer. Interesting screen name for someone pointing out the stammering of another :)

What I think? I think about what the public thinks. GS has her reasons for offering terse remarks in prepared statements. But refusing to be interviewed and talk at length implies (in the public mind) that she's a) too busy for more detailed response, implying this issue isn't important and the concerns of citizens are beneath her, b) afraid that a full interview will wrest control of the topic from herself and lead to actually answering questions about ethics and propriety that so far have not been explicitly addressed. Generally speaking, the pattern of response on this issue could lead the court of public opinion to judge GS as incompetent or evasive. There are some in PR who feel saying less is best because the incident will blow over and the public will forget. Others, myself included, stress the view that PR is about relationships, which can only suffer in such terse communication.