EDITORIAL: Enforcement key to ethics protocol

If you believe the media, ethics and PR make uncomfortable bedfellows, so the launch of a global ethical protocol at the World PR Festival - which commits 40 professional associations to at least a basic minimum standard of behaviour - can only help the industry's case.

The protocol's emphasis on responsible advocacy and honesty is exemplary, even if the attempt to portray PR practitioners as protectors of democracy and servants of society was somewhat utopian.

However, attempts to enforce the protocol's principles are likely to be frustrating. As PR is self-regulating, sanctions will lack bite. And the threat of 'excommunication' loses force when you consider that only ten per cent of the world's three million PROs belong to professional associations.

For the protocol to be meaningful, greater efforts need to be made to build a bridge between theory and the reality of PROs' working lives.

As one speaker pointed out, ethics in PR is now defined by what the practitioner refuses to communicate. But to many, particularly at the early stages of their career, this veto is a luxury they can ill afford.

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