Ethics…Why So Serious?! By: Bob Sadowski, APR


You just say the word and a sense of seriousness takes over the conversation. But I ask you, “Why so serious?!”

Anyone who knows me realizes that I firmly believe that life it too short to take yourself too serious all the time. Yet, as your Ethics Officer, I’m charged with promoting and inspiring the highest levels of ethical behavior and performance among PRSA chapter members.

And that, my friends, is no laughing matter. 

The Public Relations Society of America is built upon the foundation that members not only follow ethical principles, practices and standards of conduct in their day-to-day practice but also serve as evangelists for ethical behavior. The fact of the matter is, although PRSA does not identify Code of Ethics violators nor sanction unethical behavior, the Society does encourage those who witness questionable ethical practices or behavior in public relations to alert the Society, as information on ethical lapses is invaluable for education and learning purposes.

In other words, while the Society may not authorize or institute punishments, it does promote doing the right thing for the betterment of public relations and communications.

Doing the right thing seems so simple…that’s because it really is! As I tell students and fellow practitioners, if you have any internalized unrest where red flags go up, question what is happening or going on. Moreover, if it’s something that you’d be ashamed to talk to your grandmother about, definitely take a step back and re-evaluate!

PRSA takes ethics very seriously and, moreover, entrusts its members to do the same. They don’t expect you to go it alone, however. PRSA, its Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) and chapter Ethics Officers are here to provide education and consultation on matters where ethics come into question. Plus, they make it easy for members to stay abreast of the latest case studies that serve as true ethics learning opportunities. This month is the highpoint of the year for all of this.

September is Ethics Month at PRSA. It’s a perfect opportunity to celebrate our ethical achievements and milestones as well as discuss and learn from what’s happing in our profession today…and what the outlook is for tomorrow.

From slander to plagiarism to “fake news,” there’s [unfortunately] never a shortage of topics.

This year’s theme is, “Ethics, Strengthening Our Core.” Over the course of the month, PRSA is providing you with a wealth of opportunities to discuss and learn about strengthening our core, and I encourage you to take part through any of the following activities:

  • September Tactics Article: Jim Lukaszewski—“How to Be a Truly Trusted Strategic Ethics Advisor”

  • Webinars
    • Sept. 14, 3-4 PM EDT: Incorporating Ethics in the Public Relations Classroom: Tips, Tools and Resources for Communications Educators—Drs. Carolyn Kim, Lucinda Austin and Dean Mundy, and Dr. Denise Bortree, Arthur W. Page Center. Free for members—Register now!  Available on-demand: 9/21

    • Sept. 19, 3-4 PM EDT: The Ethical Expectations of Leadership: Jim Lukaszewski and Nance Larsen Free for members—Register now! Available on-demand: 9/26

  • Twitter Chats #PREthics
    • Sept. 12, 8:30 PM EDT: Ethics…A ‘World’ of Difference—Ethical behavior is a personal decision, but unethical actions can affect hundreds if not thousands of innocent people. Join PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards on Tuesday, September 12, from 8:30-9:30 PM, as we welcome Anthony Gray, President and CEO of the Institute for Global Ethics, to discuss the realities of the effects of unethical thought and action. Use the hashtag #PREthics to add your insights and ask your questions while learning how the Institute for Global Ethics works with its clients to provide practical tools to build ethical fitness and cultures of integrity at home, at school, in the workplace and in society.
    • Sept. 25, 4 PM EDT: Truth in Communications—PRSA/SPJ with Andrew M. Seaman (Journalist Reuters), Lauren Bartlett, SPJ member (Director of Communications) and Travis Phelps, WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation)

  • Plus so much more, including ethics webinars on-demand, blog posts, research through the Educator’s Academy and programs during the PRSA International Conference.


Ethics is, indeed, a serious matter. But, with the leadership, knowledge base and experience of PRSA at your side, it makes it much easier to ask yourself, “Why so serious?!”



Bob Sadowski, APR, currently leads the marketing efforts of myCUmortgage, a leading Credit Union Service Organization owned by Wright-Patt Credit Union in Beavercreek, Ohio. He has a deep background in corporate public relations, having worked for several industry-leading companies, including ACCO Brands, LexisNexis, Reynolds & Reynolds and Standard Register. He is a past president of the Dayton chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and currently serves as Ethics Chair. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University and resides in Bellbrook, Ohio with his wife and four children.

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