PRSA Ethics Minute – June 2016

EthicsNo Comments

June 7, 2016

PRSA has convenient resources to help members ensure they’re following the PRSA Code of Ethics while on the go. One of these resources is the PRSA Ethics Mobile App, which provides you with the Code of Ethics in an easy reference form that can be used as part of your daily practice. Other features of the app include an ethics quiz; ethics-related blog posts and access to PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards.

We encourage you to download the app and take the quiz. As part of our ongoing Ethics on The Go challenge, which you can find on the PRSA Nebraska website, by doing this you could win a gift card for following these simple steps to get acquainted with the app.

Congratulations to our latest winners of the Ethics on the Go Challenge who are: Kathy Broniecki and Shannon Stawniak! We will get your gift cards to you this week, so enjoy some coffee on us!

Another great resource you can find on the app to help refresh your Code of Ethics knowledge are many published Ethics Case Studies.

Today, I am going to highlight one of these Case Studies on one of the ethical use of interns. You can read the full study on prsa.org or the mobile app.

An increasing issue in our industry is unpaid internships and the ethical implications regarding PR internships as employers value work experience when hiring and job candidates who wish to be competitive willingly accept unpaid positions to gain work experience. With this issue, at least three Code provisions – disclosure of information, free flow of information, and enhancing the profession; along with four professional values – honesty, expertise, advocacy and fairness; are related to this issue. To help you understand this issue, two examples of improper practices include:

  • You are a sole practitioner and have five clients. You contacted a local university’s public relations department and agreed to hire two interns over the summer. While the internships are unpaid, the student will get credit. You charge the clients for the work these interns do.
  • A for-profit company hires unpaid interns to help them get college credit for their graduation requirement. The interns perform work generally done by employees. In lieu of payment, the students receive “opportunities and connections” as compensation.

To ensure we’re following the PRSA Code of Ethics, recommended best practices for unpaid internships are to ensure:

  1. The internship complies with federal and state requirements.
  2. All internships are paid if “real” billable work is accomplished.
  3. If an internship is unpaid, it meets all Department of Labor guidelines.
  4. The ingredients of a successful intern experience are built into the process from the start, which includes:
    • The work is an integral part of the student’s course of study.
    • The student receives experience relevant to a career in PR
    • The student prepares a report of his or her experiences and submits it a faculty supervisor.
    • The intern is supervised by a knowledgeable staff member who provides a productive learning experience.

If you’d like to read the full case study, along with a short discussion guide, the Ethical Use of Interns case study can be found on the prsa.org website under the Ethics session.

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