Public Relations is frequently theethical heart of an organisation. Arguably “internal and external PR communications control of the flow of good and bad news to the staff and community” The PR team copes with company crises. PR pros sit at the elbows of top officers drafting a companys mission statements, its strategies, its vision. PR people are often put on the spot — if not to determine the morality of a course, at least to help envision the fallout. Steven R. Van Hook.
The tools that help ethicalbehaviours Ethics is a universal issue and affects PR. We can study Bentham, Kant, R awls and Machiavelli. Ethics theories range from Utilitarianism ("The greatest good for the greatest number") to Deontology ("Do what is right, though the world should perish").
Aristotle’s Ethics Aristotle’s Ethics Good is that at which all things aim. The proper function or excellence of a things is its arete (virtue). The human arete or virtue is activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.
Human virtue (arete) Humans have two kinds of virtue: Intellectual virtues: these relate particularly to our professions, i.e., they will differ for a truck driver, cook, lawyer, farmer, doctor, etc. Moral virtues: This virtue is common to all humans, but it may vary in degree according to our capacities. Both intellectual and moral virtues are needed for us to achieve happiness (eudaemonia)
Happiness: The Self-sufficient End Most of the ends (goals) we seek are instrumental steps toward some ultimate goal. Aristotle identifies happiness (eudaemonia) as that which we seek as a goal that is an end in itself.
Happiness: The Self-sufficient End Happiness comes from developing a good character. A good character comes from the development of good habits.
Good CharacterPeople have a naturalcapacity for goodcharacter, but it must bedeveloped throughconstant practice. Goodleaders are necessary toguide us in thedevelopment of goodhabits.
Virtue (arete) as the mean, the correctbalance The mean is the right balance between two extremes, the extreme of excess and the extreme of deficiency. Examples: Defect Mean Excess Cowardliness courage rashness Humility pride vanity Stingy giving spendthrift
Virtue (arete) as the mean (inbetween) The mean varies according to individuals The mean of courage is different for a marine, a college student, and an eight-year old child The mean of charitable giving is different for a billionaire, a college teacher, and a student.
Kant’s One RightThe one absolute right that humans have is the right to be left alone.
KANTIAN ETHICS: OBLIGATIONS DEONTOLOGICAL/NONCONSEQUENTIALIST BASED ON REASON AND WILL REQUIRES DISCIPLINE AND SELF CONTROL REQUIRES DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR THE RIGHT REASON ETHICS IS NOT CONTINGENT UPON ONE’S FEELINGS NOR UPON THE CULTURE; RATHER, IT IS ABSOLUTE (CATEGORICAL)
KANTIAN ETHICS ASKS “WHAT IF EVERYBODY DID THAT?” (and he assumes we will all get the same answer if we are disciplined and honest) Proposes an ideal world of self-directed individuals -- “THE KINGDOM OF ENDS”
Hypothetical ImperativesIMPERATIVES OF PRUDENT CONDUCT -- FRIENDSHIP, KINDNESS, APPRECIATION Prudence Example: If I wish to have customers continue to come to my store, then I should charge them fair prices.
TYPES OF IMPERATIVES (“SHOULDS”)CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE OR MORAL IMPERATIVE--ABSOLUTE, A PRIORI, RATIONAL (NO IF’S, AND’S, OR BUT’S) I should not lie I should not kill innocent people I should not steal
Universalisability & Maxims Kantinan ethics posits that if the action could be universalised (i.e., everyone could do it), then it is morally acceptable. Otherwise, it is not. Kant suggested that ethical proposition are a maxim which is a subjective principle or rule that the will of an individual uses in making a decision.
THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE THREE TESTS THE MAXIM MUST NOT BE SELF- CONTRADICTORY THE MAXIM MUST BE universalisable THE MAXIM MUST BE ONE WHICH COULD BE WILLED A PRIORI BY A RATIONAL PERSON (Galen Strawson wrote that an a priori argument is one of which "you can see that it is true just lying on your couch)
Kant’s Examples: # 1A man reduced to despaircontemplates suicide: Is suicide universalisable? No! Does it treat oneself as a means or as an end? As a means.Therefore, the categorical imperativedictates that suicide is morallywrong.
Kant’s Examples: # 2A man in need of money thinks about borrowingmoney and realizes he will have to promise to repayit even though he knows he cannot. Is such behavior universalisable? Would he be using the person as a means or asan end?
Kant’s Examples: # 3A person has a talent which he could develop tobenefit himself and others, but he prefers not towork to improve the talent. Is such behavior universalisable? Would he be using himself as a means or asan end?
Kant’s Examples: # 4A prosperous person is asked forcharitable help. He considers nothelping. Is such behavior universalisable? Would he be using the person as a means or as an end?
Four Theses of Utilitarianism Consequentialism: The rightness of actions is determined solely by their consequences. Hedonism: Utility is the degree to which an act produces pleasure. Hedonism is the thesis that pleasure or happiness is the good that we seek and that we should seek. Maximalism: A right action produces the greatest good consequences and the least bad. Universalism: The consequences to be considered are those of everyone affected, and everyone equally.
Ethical Judgments Ethical philosophy differs from the sciences because it is normative or prescriptive, rather than descriptive. In other words, ethics tell us how we ought to act or what we should do, while the sciences are more likely to observe how things are in nature or society.
Areas of Emphasis in Making Moral JudgmentsPurpose or Act, Rule, Results or Motive or Maxim Consequences
Making Ethical Judgments inUtilitarianism Utilitarianism says that the Result or the Consequence of an Act is the real measure of whether it is good or bad. This theory emphasizes Ends over Means. Theories, like this one, that emphasize the results or consequences are called teleological or consequentialist.
Two Formulations of Utilitarian Theory Greatest Happiness:Principle of We ought to doUtility: The best that whichaction is that produces thewhich produces greatest happinessthe greatest and least pain forhappiness the greatestand/or reduces number of people.pain.
Two Types of Utilitarianism Act: An Action is Rule: An action is right right if and only if it if and only if it conforms produces the to a set of rules the greatest balance of general acceptance of pleasure over pain which would produce for the greatest the greatest balance of number. (Jeremy pleasure over pain for Bentham) the greatest number. (John Stuart Mill)
Application of Utilitarian Theory A) You attempt to B) Youattempt to help an elderly help an elderly man man across the across the street. You street. He gets stumble as you go, he across safely. is knocked into the Conclusion: the path of a car, and is Act was a good act. hurt. Conclusion: The Act was a bad act.
Application of Utilitarian Theory If you can use eighty soldiers as a decoy in war, and thereby attack an enemy force and kill several hundred enemy soldiers, that is a morally good choice even though the eighty might be lost. If lying or stealing will actually bring about more happiness and/or reduce pain, Act Utilitarianism says we should lie and steal in those cases.
Application of Utilitarian Theory Actual Cases The decision at Coventry during WWII. The decision was made not to inform the town that they would be bombed. The Ford Pinto case: A defective vehicle would sometimes explode when hit. The model was not recalled and repaired by Ford because they felt it was cheaper to pay the liability suits than to recall and repair all the defective cars.
Criticisms of Bentham’s theory Bentham’s theory could mean that if 10 people would be happy watching a man being eaten by wild dogs, it would be a morally good thing for the 10 men to kidnap someone (especially someone whose death would not cause grief to many others) and throw the man into a cage of wild, hungry dogs.
John Stuart Mill’s Adjustments to Utilitarianism Mill argues that we must consider the quality of the happiness, not merely the quantity. For example, some might find happiness with a pitcher of beer and a pizza. Others may find happiness watching a fine Shakespearean play. The quality of happiness is greater with the latter.
Criticisms of Utilitarianism If I am to bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number, not putting my own happiness above others, that may lead to a dilemma. I live in a neighborhood where 83% of my neighbors use drugs. I could make them most happy by helping supply them with cheap drugs, but I feel uncomfortable doing that. What should a utilitarian do?
Criticisms of Utilitarianism Bernard Williams criticizes the implied “doctrine of negative responsibility” in Utilitarianism. For example, a thug breaks into my home and holds six people hostage, telling us he will kill all of us. “However,” the thug says, “if you will kill two of your family, I will let you and the other three live.” With Utilitarianism, the good thing to do is to kill two members of my family.
Criticisms of Utilitarianism If lying, stealing, or killing could lead to an increase of happiness for the greatest number, utilitarianism posits that we should lie, steal or kill. Is this right? Is it right to heap taxes on the next two generation to save a banking system and save 10,000 jobs and 20th century jobs? Remember Kant? A Prime Minister in need of money thinks about borrowing money and realises he will have to promise to repay it even though he knows it will tax the next generation. Is such behavior universalisable? Would he be using the next generation as a: means or as an end?
Mill’s “Rule” Utilitarianism John Stuart Mills “ . . . Mankind must by this time have acquired positive beliefs as to the effects of some actions on their happiness; and the beliefs which have thus come down are the rules of morality for the multitude, and for the philosopher until he has succeeded in finding better.” Mill concludes, however, that we should always seek improvements.
Rights and Utilitarianism Many philosophers hold that we have certain rights, either from God, nature, or from a social contract Can the idea of rights be made compatible with Utilitarianism? If ignoring rights brings about more happiness to the greatest number, should we ignore so-called rights? Mill’s rule-based view in On Liberty; having a right to liberty will bring the greatest happiness
Consequences of Unethical Practices Baucus & Baucus (2000) Singled out 67 companies out of the Fortune 500 that had at least one illegal act – ex: antitrust, product liabilities, discrimination Performance of the convicted firms were compared to unconvicted firms (five year after the fraud was committed) Convicted firms experienced significantly lower return on sales (three year lag) Multiple convictions are more disastrous Unethical activities can affect long term performance
CIPR Code CIPR Principles 1. Members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations agree to: Maintain the highest standards of professional endeavour, integrity, confidentiality, financial propriety and personal conduct; Deal honestly and fairly in business with employers, employees, clients, fellow professionals, other professions and the public; Respect the customs, practices and codes of clients, employers, colleagues, fellow professionals and other professions in all countries where they practise; Take all reasonable care to ensure employment best practice including giving no cause for complaint of unfair discrimination on any grounds; Work within the legal and regulatory frameworks affecting the practice of public relations in all countries where they practise; Encourage professional training and development among members of the profession; Respect and abide by this Code and related Notes of Guidance issued by the Institute of Public Relations and encourage others to do the same. http://www.cipr.co.uk/direct/membership.asp?v1=code
Perceptions and reality Many people perceive public relations as something less than respectable — as clever strategies to convince the public that whats wrong is right. Some see public relations professionals as manipulators of the public mind, rather than conveyors of truth. That is likely the reason most every code of conduct, especially those targeted at the PR profession, stresses honesty above all else. Too often our conduct falls short of the code. Spin substitutes for truth. Perception substitutes for reality. Victory substitutes for success.
Are we strong enough? Public relations is a two way street: not only do we represent our organization to the public, but we must also present the public back to our organization. We should help our colleagues understand how the public perceives our actions.
Which way to turn – are we justutilitarian? In some specific instances, a clients true interest may lie in complete openness, transparency and disclosure in their communications, and even in tub-thumping to draw attention to their story and message. In such situations, we have every reason to be candid, open and forthcoming. In many instances, however, the clients interest may lie in seeing that particular facts never see the light of day, and if they do burst forth for all to see, to minimize the impact, duration and even the clarity of any resulting reporting and public communications. This is called crisis avoidance, and damage control. It is also what many clients most value of our work as PR practitioners. Is it ethical?
The true role? If PR is about creating and sustaining good, long term relationships with publics, what is the role of a PR manager in a bank? In 2009, the relationships between banks was so bad that they did not trust each other enough to lend money inter-bank. Was this a failure of PR? What would you do?
Do you like the idea? Do you like the idea of explaining why an organisation should be ethical to a CEO? Do you like the idea of questioning ordinary mundane activities from an ethical viewpoint Looking back on the last essay you wrote for this degree, do you think you were ethical in its preparation?