Neither the McCain or Obama campaign has responded to the Public Relations Society of America's request that each sign a pledge "obligating them to abide by the PRSA Code of Ethics in their campaign communications."
That's because presidential candidates have no reason to treat PRSA as the voice or moral authority of the influence industry. The truth is that PRSA -- and I've been a member longer than I can remember -- is none of these things.
PRSA's board of directors doesn't include a single representative from the nation's largest PR agencies.
Nor has PRSA shown the courage of its convictions. Many agencies and communications departments, including PRSA members, act unethically. They talk to reporters and write editorials without revealing their interests. They design video news releases to make TV viewers think they're watching journalism. They do push-polls and sell it as real research. They create anonymous front groups and publish fake blogs. They attack critics and marginalize legitimate issues about their clients or employers.
And PRSA doesn't do much about it. In 2006, the association sent an email warning members to "avoid misleading practices" including front groups. The big PR agencies that prompted the advisory because they'd been outed in the national press weren't mentioned, much less admonished.
At the end of the day, PRSA acts like just another trade association that expects high status not for its bold advocacy, but for its good intentions.
This may be a sincere desire. But it's certainly not being true to the cause.
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