LONDON — The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has launched a Global Ethics Council to uphold and elevate ethical standards in the PR industry.

Its inaugural chairman is David Gallagher, international president of Omnicom, former chairman of the PRCA, and former president of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO).

The aim of the council, whose members include senior practitioners from around the world, is to raise ethical standards in the global PR industry, by providing advice to trade associations on developing and upholding ethical codes of conduct, and creating an ethical forum for debating ethical issues and sharing best practice.

Launching the Global Ethics Council at the PRCA’s International Summit this week, Gallagher said the initiative had been in development for many years: “For as long as I have been in this business, we have discussed the importance of establishing and maintaining the highest level of ethical practice if we are to meet our full potential as professional advisors, and a great deal of effort has been invested in various charters, codes of practices and ethical guidelines.”

He said raising standards around the world addressed one of the criticisms levied against the industry: “that we practice ‘dark arts or spin’, and give unfair advantage to undeserving businesses or governments.” He also said raised ethical standards would “add value to business, by reducing corruption, improving the integrity of professional advice, and reducing future liabilities by steering board rooms or cabinet offices away from trouble.

Gallagher added: “And in theory, ethical communications should make the world a better place by reducing misinformation, establishing desirable behaviours related to health and nutrition, or promoting democracy.”

But he said earlier efforts to map a global code of ethics had “fudged” the balance “between respecting local laws, customs and norms and recognising some level of universal humanity” in a “volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous world.”

Gallagher said the industry’s sense of ethics had been affected by the internet, social media and fake news, but that the Covid-19 pandemic could be an opportunity “to reset our ethical foundation and outlook for a new era. We are already changing where we work and how; why not look at what we do and why?”

The first members of the Global Ethics Council are:

  • Bob Pickard, principal of Signal Leadership Communication
  • Bridget von Holdt, business director of BCW
  • Claire Walker, CEO of Firefly Communications
  • Francis Ingham, PRCA director general
  • Gustavo Averbuj, Ketchum Latin America CEO and regional director
  • Kim Sample, president of PR Council
  • Kiri Sinclair, founder and CEO of Sinclair
  • Lee Nugent, EVP APAC of Archetype
  • Mary Beth West, senior strategist of Fletcher Marketing PR
  • Massimo Moriconi, general manager of OmnicomPRGroup Italy
  • Matt Neale, Golin global CEO
  • Nitin Mantri, group CEO of Avian WE
  • Omar Qirem, CEO of Edelman Middle East
  • Philippa Foster Back, former director of the Institute for Business Ethics
  • Rob Flaherty, chairman of Ketchum
  • Simon Goldsworthy, former Professor of Public Relations and co-author of 'PR Ethics: The Real World Guide'
  • Stephane Billet, president of We Agency. 

Ingham said: “The launch of the PRCA Global Ethics Council is a key moment for our industry. The creation of this global body will help us to set and then to raise even higher global standards of ethical behaviour.”