Code Of Ethics
The NUJ Public Relations code of ethics has been developed jointly between the branch and PR and Communications Council.
Public relations and communications roles often involve questions about what would be the right thing to do or say − as opposed to what would be unprofessional or unethical. PR and communications professionals can find themselves under pressure to deal with information in a way they are not comfortable with.
Every situation is different and it is for individuals to interpret the guidelines and decide what to do for the best. They are not intended to be a series of rules but an outline of the principles of good public relations and a guide to what these mean in practice. They aim to promote the highest professional and ethical standards and to support those working in professional PR and communications roles if they are faced with difficult choices.
They also aim to help employers, decision makers and the general public understand the duties and responsibilities of those working public relations and communications roles. The union will provide immediate backing if you decline to carry out unethical instructions. Contact your union representative or NUJ head office for support and advice.
Ethical guidelines for NUJ PR and communications members
PR and communications professionals should:
- Observe the highest professional and ethical standards at all times. Behaving ethically should be central to your everyday working practice
- Defend the freedom of the press and the right of journalists to seek balanced and accurate information on behalf of the public
- Refuse to disseminate false or misleading information and take care to avoid doing so inadvertently
- Decline to engage in any practice likely to corrupt the integrity of the public relations profession, the organisations they represent, the media or the NUJ and its members
- Deal fairly and honestly with employers or clients. Ensure they understand that their reputation is based on trust and goodwill
- Hospitality offered or accepted should not exceed normal courtesy and any offers of gifts should be reported to your manager
- Provide independent professional advice to your employers or clients and be willing to explain and defend decisions by the organisations you represent
- When commissioning freelance work, members should not attempt to induce any journalist or photographer to work for less than NUJ rates or conditions
- Decline payment of charges or fees requested by publications for publishing editorial material, for ‘colour separation’, for example. Paid-for advertorials or advertising features are acceptable if they are clearly identified as such
- Members working in local and national government organisations must maintain professional political neutrality unless their conditions of employment specifically allow otherwise.