PR Council, Page Society open to Edelman ethics proposal

Renee Wilson and Roger Bolton, the leaders of the PR Council and the Page Society, respectively, did not rule out working together on a new industry-wide ethics standard.

NEW YORK: The leaders of the PR Council and the Arthur W. Page Society both said that they are open to partnering with other organizations to bolster industry ethics after Edelman CEO Richard Edelman issued a call to action on the topic on Wednesday.

Edelman called on the two trade groups to form a coalition to develop a universal ethics standard for the industry called the "PR Compact."

"What Richard [Edelman] said was bold and exciting," said PR Council president Renee Wilson. "I’d be happy to partner with the industry in any way to reinforce what we stand for."

She added that the Council has its own code of ethics that each member must sign and recommit to annually.

Page president Roger Bolton said the four standards Edelman enumerated in his PR Compact proposal "are sound and consistent with our principles."

Asked if he would partner with the PR Council, Bolton said, "I’m not going to reject anything." He noted that his organization recommitted to its values early this year, such as always telling the truth.

Reached hours after Edelman’s remarks to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Wilson and Bolton said they had not yet discussed working together on an ethics platform.

The PRSA said in an emailed statement that its ethics code "is one of the cornerstones of our organization and is well-respected in the industry."

"PRSA’s more than 21,000 members have agreed to follow the code which calls for them to conduct themselves professionally, with truth, accuracy, fairness, and responsibility to the public as core principles," the group said in a statement.

Rod Granger, director of PR and communications at the PRSA, declined additional comment.

"As the only global association for professional communicators, IABC applauds this initiative," IABC chair Sharon Hunter said in a statement. "We firmly stand by our Code of Ethics to guide the personal conduct of our member practitioners and we look forward to participating in this critical conversation about industry regulation on a global scale."

In his remarks, Edelman said the "crazy quilt" of ethical standards from different industry bodies, namely the Page Society, the PR Council, the PRSA, and IABC, was insufficient after the Bell Pottinger scandal. He said firms must insist on accuracy, demand transparency from clients, engage in the free and open exchange of ideas, and require all staffers to take a free universal ethics training course online.

"We must do better," he said. "We need a set of principles that are universal, consistent, and well understood across the industry. The time has come to adhere to a single set of strong standards and to hold all of our people accountable to them."

Editor's note: This article was updated with comment from Hunter on October 23, 2017.

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