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PRSA Professional Standards Advisory

May 11, 2004


TO:  Members of the Public Relations Society of America


FROM:  Board of Ethics and Professional Standards

Recently, several issues of professional standards have arisen in the practice of public relations. To address such issues, we are inaugurating a series of professional standards advisory bulletins designed to provide guidance for PRSA members as they strive for adherence to our Code of Ethics and Professional Standards.


The PRSA Code may be found online at




ISSUE:  Disclosure of employment status of public relations agency staff or independent public relations consultants who work on-site at a client''s offices.


BACKGROUND:  Today there are a variety of practices in terms of the client-agency/consultant relationship.  A practice that is apparently being used more frequently is one in which employees of an agency or independent consultants work on-site at the client organization, in either a full or part-time capacity.  Sometimes they are identified with company titles.  Having agency staff or consultants on-site can benefit the client company by providing face-to-face access to their counsel and support.  Plus, the additional personnel are available to handle routine or specific PR responsibilities.


However, at a time when openness and transparency in communications is recognized as a "best practice" for companies and organizations, public relations professionals must consider the issue of disclosure.


RELEVANT SECTIONS OF THE PRSA CODE:  There are several principles in the Code that relate to this issue, including:


  • Be honest and accurate in all communications.
  • Open communications foster informed decision-making and build trust.
  • Deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media and the general public.
  • Maintain the integrity of relationships with the media, government officials and the public to protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information.
  • Avoid real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest.


Recommended Best Practice:  When speaking to the public and/or the media on behalf of a client, agency personnel or independent consultants should uniformly and clearly identify themselves as outside spokespeople, retained by the company.

Daniel Keeney
(832) 467-2904
(832) 467-2909
Author: Daniel Keeney
Phone: (832) 467-2904
Fax: (832) 467-2909