PRSA Code of Ethics compels PR Pros to tell the truth, no place for "white lies" in our profession.

Contributed by Kathy Krafka Harkema, APR

PRSA Delegate, Ethics

Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks made light of telling “white lies” for her former boss, President Donald Trump. PRSA members know better than to stretch the truth.

Our PRSA Code of Ethics compels us to tell the truth as public relations professionals. PR isn’t about spin, or stretching the truth. PR is about telling the truth in an honest, straightforward way. Our PRSA Code of Ethics requires us to adhere to the highest standards of truth and accuracy. We’re also to avoid deceptive practices. By her own admission in testimony to a Congressional committee Feb. 27, Hope Hicks failed to do that. The next day, she resigned from her prominent post at the White House.

No matter what your political views, the view as a public relations professional is clear. Lies, no matter how big or small, have no place in our profession. Our strength as communications leaders comes from earning trust and respect by conducting ourselves with honesty, integrity and accuracy in communications.

Today’s PR professionals are expected to lead by example and communicate clearly, no matter whether we are dealing with the good, the bad or the ugly challenges we face in communications today.

How can you avoid the type of situation Hope Hicks found herself embroiled in at the White House? It’s fairly simple. Tell the truth. Be honest. Be accurate. Verify facts and sources and have the documentation to back up the statements you’re making. Uphold the ethics you agreed to as a public relations professional and member of PRSA.

What happens if something goes wrong, or you’ve found you’ve received or given out misinformation? After all, we’re all human. Mistakes can and do happen. If you do make a mistake, admit it, and correct it as quickly as possible. If you made an error, you’ll earn more respect by owning up to it, rather than running from it. Honesty and integrity and doing the right thing never go out of style. Be human. Be humble.  Above all, be honest. As a member of PRSA “white lies” have no place in our profession.

Need a refresher on the PRSA Code of Ethics? Or know someone you counsel or work with who could benefit from learning about the standards we’ve agreed to uphold as PR professionals? Visit

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