Public Relations have been at the core of many controversies and have faced the blame for many controversies of an ethical nature. University of North Carolina’s main website (2011), the definition of Public Relations is that it is a strategy that is used to build an image of good will by the means of promotions, services, goods and images. There are three main events called ‘publicity’- text or audio/visuals used to create a positive image; ‘event management’-handling PR events from conception to execution; ‘publication design’- brochures and any other products built to create an image of the organization (UNCP, 2011). The objectives of PR are clear: create a desired image for a ...view middle of the document...
Yi-Hui states that PR professionals regularly face ethical dilemmas and need a code of behaviour/action. Yi-Hui lists arguments often used to justify the lack of a code of ethics: it is not always required, is self-contradictory, is just a distraction, cannot be enforced, limits freedom of expression and choice. Yi-Hui concludes that if the larger Public Relations Society of America takes an ethical leadership role and steps forward enforces a code then it will make the whole profession legitimate, offer guidelines to the professional PR practitioner, and be in the best interest of society (Yi-Hui, 2001). Ki, Choi and Lee (2012) claim in their study PR firms that have a code of ethics have fewer incidences of malpractice and better judgement exhibited by the employees. However, in the PR industry at large there is very little ethical framework to monitor the actions of PR firms. Ki, Choi and Lee highly recommend including an ethical training program in PR companies (Ki, Choi, & Lee, 2012).
PR ethics can be influenced by a variety of factors. James E. Grunig (1993) states the role of international policies and affairs create an impact on PR practice. Grunig uses the example of H&K PR firm that produced false Kuwaiti testimonies against Iraqi soldiers in USA 3 months before launching the attack on Iraq in 1991. Events and practices such as this has led to PR being closely linked with shady motives and loose ethics. Grunig states that ethical practice requires PR firms to investigate what will best for the larger public and not just their specific clients (Grunig, 1993). Skinner, Mersham and Valin (2003) further the role of ethics in global PR by stating that it has become easier for PR firms to encourage ethical practices in their clients and PR plays a positive role (Skinner, Mersham, & Valin, 2003). Jean-Pierre Beaudoin (2004) explains how positive PR helped give influencing power to NGOs, so that they can affect major corporations (Beaudoin, 2004).
David L. Martinson (1998) describes the theory of situational ethics and warns PR practitioners to not get confused while assessing situations. Situational ethics cannot replace the role of ethical decision making as situations differ; otherwise, there will be more dilemma than before (Martinson, 1998). Johanna Fawkes (2007) believes that persuasion ethics has a good chance of building an ethical framework for PR firms. Persuasion ethics is the ability to negotiate fairly (Fawkes, 2007). Gale and Bunton (2005) studied the effect of teaching PR practitioners professional ethics, and concluded that it helps them greatly in ethical decision-making. The results are long term and very positive (Gale & Bunton, 2005).
PR firms and practices need to incorporate an ethical framework that focuses...