Yesterday, the Public Relations Society of America Advocacy Committee issued an statement about paid media endorsements, such as the one purported to have been made to Audrey Lewis (a freelance writer whose articles appeared in The Birmingham Times) by Richard M. Scrushy, the former chief executive of HealthSouth, through her public relations firm the Lewis Group. It says, among other things that:
PRSA strongly objects to any paid endorsement that is not fully disclosed as such and is presented as objective news coverage. Such practices are clearly contrary to the PRSA Member Code of Ethics, which requires that public relations professionals engage in open, honest communications and fully disclose sponsors or financial interests involved in any paid communications activities. We encourage all public relations professionals to follow the responsible and ethical practice of public relations as outlined by our Code of Ethics.
Kudos to PRSA for standing firm on the principles of the PRSA Code of Ethics. Here is the New York Times article about the scandal (free subscription required)