Public Relations – An Ethical Dilemma

Public relations (PR) practitioners face a countless number of ethical dilemmas, which they must be able to deal with effectively (Wilcox et al. 2013). The Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) has a code of ethics which binds all members of the PRIA and one of the principles requires members to engage fairly and honestly with their employers and clients without representing conflicting interests (PRIA 2015). In this situation, it would be an unethical practice to use the knowledge from a good friend to the advantage of the employee and their employer in order to win the bid because it is neither a fair nor honest practice. Although it may be tempting for the PR practitioner to gain an unfair advantage, the consequences of a breach of the code of ethics may be serious and result in fines, suspension of membership or expulsion (PRIA 2003).


Image 1 (Source:  Skillings 2014)

When dealing with the news media, it is easy to extinguish a PR practitioner’s credibility and usefulness to their employer by anything less than complete honestly (Wilcox et al. 2013). As such, although temptations may often present themselves, it is absolutely vital that all PR practitioners display ethical behaviour which will earn trust and respect over the longer term. Personally in this situation, I would apply my internal standard of ethics and morals and disclose the relationship with my good friend on the bid-assessment panel. This may require my withdrawal from the campaign; however it would be preferable to withdraw from the campaign with a potentially lost opportunity than to be expelled from the industry for dishonesty.


Public Relations Institute of Australia 2003, ‘Code of Ethics’, viewed 3 May 2015,

Public Relations Institute of Australia 2015, ‘Individual Code of Ethics’, viewed 3 May 2015,

Skillings, J 2014, ‘Ethical SEO: We’ve always known what’s right and wrong’, viewed 4 May 2015,

Wilcox, DL, Cameron, GT, Reber, BH & Shin, JH 2013, Think: Public Relations, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.