Public Relations Leader Urges Nation's CEOs to Exert Leadership and Speak Out on Corporate Ethics

Feb 19, 2003, 00:00 ET from PRSA

    DENVER, Feb. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- A "few rotten apples" are responsible for
 the ethical crisis facing corporate America, but the public believes the
 problem is more widespread and wants executives punished for their ethical
 lapses, the head of the world's largest organization for public relations
 practitioners said today in Denver.
     Reed Bolton Byrum, APR, president of the Public Relations Society of
 America (PRSA) urged the nation's CEOs to speak out on the issue of corporate
 ethics and said, "It will take real leaders to turn this situation around."
 "If CEOs and CFOs are fearful of where candor might lead their companies,
 consider where lack of candor has led the economy and stock exchanges," Byrum
 added at a meeting of PRSA's Colorado chapter.
     A recent credibility survey by PRSA and Equation Research shows "most
 Americans perceive executives as weak and lacking in ethics" and 85 percent
 believe punishing them for ethical lapses is the answer to the problem, Byrum
     A recent Gallup Poll shows Americans rate "the honesty and ethics of
 business executives just above that of telemarketers and just below those of
 congressmen and building contractors," he said.  "Another survey says 54
 percent of professional investors say recent scandals are not just the work of
 a few 'bad apples,' but represent the broader failure of corporate
     "All of these negative ratings arise out of 23 indictments of corporate
 executives," Byrum said.  "But, damningly, they also arise out of the silence
 of executives and institutions, voices that have remarkably failed to refute
     "I challenge all of us (PR professionals) to get CEOs of American
 institutions to speak out," he added.  "This could, in fact, be the quickest
 route to re-establishing a positive perception of institutional ethics."
     Byrum, who is serving a one-year term as PRSA president, was one of the
 first PR professionals to incorporate public relations strategies on the
 Internet.  He serves as public relations counsel to a number of high-tech
     With nearly 20,000 members in 116 chapters nationwide, PRSA is the world's
 largest organization for public relations practitioners.  PRSA members are on
 the public relations staffs of virtually every major corporation in America.