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Roots of Advocacy

From Member Input to Action
PRSA established its Advocacy Advisory Board (AAB) in 2002 to involve the Society in advocacy for the public relations profession. The AAB’s mandate is to advance the public relations profession by sounding a clear, consistent PRSA voice on important issues of our time.

Advocacy helps PRSA carry out its larger mission of advancing the profession and the professional by establishing the Society as the leading authority on best practices and professional standards. Much of PRSA’s “standing” to speak out for the profession stems from its broad membership and professional resources, as well as the PRSA Code of Ethics.

Many positions adopted by the AAB are, in fact, rooted in the Code. Typically, they revolve around tenets of ethical professional conduct and principles of truthful and transparent communications. Among the Code’s core principles is that “protecting and advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information is essential to serving the public interest and contributing to informed decision making in a democratic society.” In that spirit, PRSA’s advocacy program also furthers the expressed desire of members to address issues impacting the free flow of ideas, a concept protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

From the beginning, the AAB set the tone for the kind of leadership it would provide. In 2003, it partnered with the Institute for Public Relations, the Arthur W. Page Society and the Public Affairs Council to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Nike v. Kasky appeal. In this case, heralded as a test case for “corporate free speech,” PRSA advocated First Amendment protection for a corporation responding to public allegations of wrongdoing.

In that first year, the AAB also expressed opinions in support of openness, honesty and candor in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and against broadcast ownership regulations proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Since then, PRSA has taken on a broad array of issues with a range of activities including public position statements, op-eds, media interviews, comment submission on regulatory proposals, public forums in Washington, D.C., and testimony before Congress. More details appear at “Advocacy in Action.”

In 2006, the AAB initiated a Chapter Advocacy Officer (CAO) program by which designated Chapter members serve as a conduit for information to and from the national advocacy program. The CAOs also track state and local issues for action at the national, state and local level, as appropriate.  

PRSA made fair and transparent political communications its central advocacy theme of 2008. The Society called for a halt to negative and personal attacks in campaign communications and the restoration of respectful discourse among candidates.

In 2011, PRSA successfully stemmed potential actions by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight to diminish or severely restrict the U.S. government’s use of approved public relations and public affairs services and counsel.

Moving Forward
In 2010, PRSA revamped its national advocacy program to focus on three core areas: the business value of public relations, ethics and diversity within the profession. A core component of the enhanced advocacy focus is PRSA’s "Business Case for Public Relations™.” Launched in October 2008, the initiative fosters more accurate and better-informed perceptions of the value and role of public relations in the diverse organizations it serves.

PRSA continues to actively monitor key legislative and regulatory issues affecting public relations, marketing, advertising and free-speech principles. PRSA is the only national public relations professional association or trade group to submit comments to the Federal Trade Commission regarding updates to the FTC’s “Dot Com Disclosure” guidelines and its environmental marketing guidelines.