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PR Ethics


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Lecture by Katie Stansberry on ethics for Principles of PR class.

Published in: Education, Business, Technology

PR Ethics

  1. 1. Ethics in Public Relations Katie Stansberry
  2. 2. Is PR an Ethical Practice?
  3. 3. Choosing the Right Path • Why is it right? –Intrinsic (good in itself) • i.e. not telling lies –Extrinsic (good because of its results) • i.e. telling a lie to save a life
  4. 4. Ways we study ethics • Normative – What is ethical? • Applied – What choice would be ethical in this particular situation? • Descriptive – Was that action or decision ethical?
  5. 5. Ethical Egoism • Normative position • People should do what is in their own self interest • All autonomy and no responsibility • Looking out only for yourself
  6. 6. Virtue Ethics • Aristotle’s ethics • Emphasis on building personal character, not reasoning • Do good things until it becomes habitual • Virtue is achieved through practice
  7. 7. Kantian Perspective • Deontology (duty) • Abstract conception of common right and wrong, no matter the situation • Obligation to do the right thing • Ethical standards apply at all times to all people, including you
  8. 8. Utilitarian Perspective • Consequentialist (consider all consequences) • Find the option that leads to the greatest benefit for the largest number of people • Minimize pain for most people • Majority is favored, but the minority is considered
  9. 9. Situation Ethics • One absolute principle: – To love one another as I have loved you • People are central to decision making • Situations and context are of great importance • Determine what is the most loving thing to do • No absolutes
  10. 10. Ethics in Public Relations • No single standard of ethical practice • No enforceable “rules” or governing body • Several guidelines for ethics in PR – The Public Relations Society of America • – International Association of Business Communicators • – The Word Of Mouth Marketing Association Ethics Code •
  11. 11. The Basics • Be open and honest • Do not hide relevant information (lie by omission) • Do not misrepresent yourself • Treat your publics with respect • Practitioners are responsible for their actions (no Nuremburg defense) • Practice loyalty to both clients and publics • Be fair in dealings with all stakeholder groups
  12. 12. Ethical Issue #1: Greenwashing Would you buy a car from this man?
  13. 13. Greenwashing Imagine you are the public relations representative for a small company that manufactures widgets. You recently opened a factory in southern California that operates entirely on solar generated energy. You have six other factories built over 10 years ago that use outdated, non-energy efficient technology in their operations. You are asked to develop and launch a publicity campaign focusing on the new factory and promoting your company’s commitment to green manufacturing. What do you do?
  14. 14. Ethical Issue #2: Transparency • Anonymous nature of online communication has led to questionable tactics by public relations practitioners • Walmart fake blogging scandal • Ghost twitterers – 50 Cent – Britney Spears net/27twitter.html • Product rankings and reviews – author rankings and comments
  15. 15. Transparency Imagine you are working out the final details of a PR contract with a new client. When the client sees you have included participation in social media on his behalf as part of the plan he gets excited and says, “I’m so glad you’ll be taking that on. I was running out of fake names to use when I commented about our company.” When you tell him you’ll be glad to participate in online conversations for him but that you will have to be open about representing the company, he tells you that won’t be as effective and implies that there are plenty of other PR agencies who would be willing to do things his way. What do you do?
  16. 16. Ethical Issue #3: Moral Compromises • Communications people often find themselves between a rock and a hard place • In the end, public relations is a business • Identify the lines you won’t cross and stick to them • Quitting is always an option
  17. 17. Moral Compromises Imagine you are the events manager for a nonprofit that provides services to homebound elderly people. You decide to hold a diabetes walk to raise awareness of the problem of severe type 2 diabetes among the elderly and to raise funds to subsidize medication for elderly diabetics. KrispyKreme, who donates a hefty sum to your organization every year, offers to provide free coffee, water and food for participants in exchange for signage at the event. What do you do?
  18. 18. Friday, May 15 beginning at 9 a.m. The Turnbull Center in Portland Keynote speaker: Brooke Gladstone, co-host and managing editor of WNYC'squot;On the Media”