Ethics in Public Relations

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1 Introduction

Like every discipline also public relations have own code of ethics. Such a kind of code we need to prevent unethical actions. In some cases the code gets violated. In the following essay I will explain what code of ethics is and why do we need it.

Main points of my essay will be:
-What is code of ethics?
-Why do public relations practitioners need code of ethics? - Case study
- How to prevent violation of PR code of ethics?

Definition of ethics normally determines the nature of what should be valued and distinguishes right from wrong. Ethics in public relations includes values such as honesty, openness, loyalty, fair-mindedness, respect, integrity and forthright communication (Bowen, 2007)

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says that “the field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior.” 2 Public relations as an ethical discipline

Many current researches and critics agree that there can be no ethical public relations. Usually public relations are associated with lying, spin-doctoring and espionage. Public relations industry is often criticized for a lack of ethics. It is believed that term ethical public relations is an oxymoron. Some people see public relations professionals as manipulators of the public mind.

To be successful public relation practitioner you need to make intelligent decisions on situations laden with ethical dilemmas. It is important to balance between serving the best interests for a client and for overall society. Ideally would be a perfect symmetry of service attained to client and society. But in a reality a large number of variables disrupt this symmetry. Ethical dilemmas often result from dealing these variables (Lieber, 2003).

Ethics is often delineated into two paradigms: Kant’s deontological and utilitarian perspective. Kant’s categorical imperative suggests public relations practitioners to act in accordance with the moral law and not personal inclination of profit maximization. On the other hand, in utilitarian approach the greatest good for the greatest number of people represents the most ethical outcome. For public relations practitioners is ethics always the decision-making process (Bowen, 2007). 3 What is public relations code of ethics?

Code of ethics represents the fundamental beliefs that guide behavior and decisions of public relations practitioners. They need to keep different values such as advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, fairness, etc. For PR practitioners it means, they need: -to serve the public interest;

-to adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth;
-to acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience; -to advance their profession through development, research and education; -to provide objective counsel and be faithful to those they represent; -to be accountable for their actions;

-to deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public.

Code of ethics also protects and advances the free flow of accurate and truthful information. It is necessary to serve the public interest. Competition among PR professionals should be healthy and fair. To build trust you need to reveal all information to make a responsible decision. PR practitioners also need to avoid real, potential or perceived conflicts and protect confidential and private information (PRSA, 2000).

The current state of ethics in PR depends on codes held by major professional associations. Membership in groups is voluntary and members agree with a code of ethics that is written for the entire group. Different codes don’t vary much by country but by the professional organization. Some codes strive to offer guidance of professionalism, while other codes attempt to identify general moral principles of ethical behavior. Codes of ethics have been critiqued for failing short of ideals...
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