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PA 685: Strategic Management of
Public Communications
Module 2:
Ethical Decision Making & Laws Affecting
Public Communication
Stages of Moral Thought (Kohlberg)
Child – defines right and wrong in terms of
what authorities say.
Adolescent – defines right and wrong in terms
of group loyalty (friends, family, gang, nation).
Adult – views right and wrong from universal
standards of justice, human rights, and human
welfare.
Education is what stimulates growth through levels.
What are Ethics?
Ethics are not the same as morals or feelings.
Ethics are not religious teachings.
Ethics do not necessarily follow the law.
Ethics may run counter to culturally accepted norms.
Ethics are not science.
Questions underlying discussions of ethics
On what do we base our ethical standards?
How do we make decisions when we all see things
differently through our own personal frames of
reference?
The Utilitarian Approach to Ethics
Focuses on the consequences that actions or policies
have on the well-being of all persons directly or
indirectly affected by the action or policy.
The principle states: "Of any two actions, the most
ethical one will produce the greatest balance of
benefits over harms."
The ethical action is the one that will produce the
greatest balance of benefits over harms.
Which option will produce the most good and do the
least harm?
The Rights Approach to Ethics
Ethical action is the one that best protects and
respects the moral rights of those affected.
Each person has a fundamental right to be respected
and treated as a free and equal rational person capable
of making his or her own decisions.
The ethical action is the one that most dutifully
respects the rights of all affected.
Even if not everyone gets all they want, will everyone's
rights and dignity still be respected?
The Fairness Approach to Ethics
Focuses on how fairly or unfairly our actions
distribute benefits and burdens among the members
of a group.
Fairness requires consistency in the way people are
treated.
The principle states: "Treat people the same unless
there are morally relevant differences between them."
 The ethical action is the one that treats people equally,
or if unequally, that treats people proportionately and
fairly.
Which option is fair to all stakeholders?
The Common Good Approach to Ethics
Presents a vision of society as a community whose
members are joined in a shared pursuit of values and
goals they hold in common.
The community is comprised of individuals whose
own good is inextricably bound to the good of the
whole.
The principle states: "What is ethical is what advances
the common good."
The ethical action is the one that contributes most to
the achievement of a quality common life together.
Which option would help all participate more fully in
the life we share as a family, community, and society?
The Virtue Approach to Ethics
Focuses on attitudes, dispositions, or character traits
that enable us to be and to act in ways that develop
our human potential.
Examples: honesty, courage, faithfulness,
trustworthiness, integrity, etc.
The principle states: "What is ethical is what develops
moral virtues in ourselves and our communities."
The ethical action is the one that embodies the habits
and values of humans at their best.
Would you want to become the sort of person who acts
this way (e.g., a person of courage or compassion)?
Problems With These Approaches
We may not agree on the same set of human and civil
rights, what constitutes the common good, what is
good and what is harmful.
 The different approaches may not answer the question
“What is ethical?” in the same way.
Considering all these perspectives, which of the
options is the right or best thing to do?
If you told someone you respect why you chose this
option, what would that person say? If you had to
explain your decision on television, would you be
comfortable doing so?
The Potter Box Model of Ethical
Decision-Making
 This ethical decision-making model was derived by
Ralph Potter of the Harvard Divinity School.
 This model forces the communicators to prioritize the
values and audiences that are most important to the
organization in a given situation. In most cases, the
communicator is juggling relationships with many
constituents, none of which can be overlooked.
 Four steps of the model
1. Define the situation in terms of the organization and audience.
2. Identify values important to the situation.
3. Select principles and outcomes that are most important.
4. Choose loyalties/audiences and carry out the action.
The Navran Model of Ethical
Decision-Making
 The Navran Model consists of six steps to ensure the
consideration of all ethical components in the decision-making
process.
 The six steps include:
4.
5.
6.
Make the decision
Implement the decision
Evaluate the decision
1.
2.
3.
Define the problem
Identify available alternatives
Evaluate the alternatives
 Additionally, the communicator applies four “PLUS” filters to
steps 1, 3 and 6. These filters call for considerations to:
 (P) Policies – is the decision consistent with your organizational
guidelines?
 (L) Law – is it within the scope of the law?
 (U) Universal – is it aligned with my organization’s values?
 (S) Self – does it conform to your personal ethics and beliefs?
Ethics and Legal Dimensions of
Public Communication
Public communicators are encouraged to make ethical
decisions, but there is no enforcement with PRSA,
IABC, AMA, AAF, and other professional associations.
Public communicators are required to follow the laws
governing their communication campaigns.
Gillett Amendment of 1913
"Appropriated funds may not be used to pay a publicity
expert unless specifically appropriated for that purpose."
Never intended to ban public relations and public
communication by government agencies.
Instead, required transparency that publicity was being
used—came about in response to government propaganda in the early
20th Century.
Copyright Laws and Public
Communications
Common law copyright – An author who creates a
tangible expression of his or her ideas immediately
acquires common law copyright of the work.
This right continues until the author dedicates the work to
the public.
Statutory copyright – Author must provide two copies
to the Library of Congress and display the copyright
symbol © on the material.
Notice/use of the copyright symbol must be on the very
first copy sold or publically distributed.
Copyright Laws and Public
Communications
The dividing line between common law and statutory
copyright is publication.
If there is a general publication and the author has not
obtained statutory copyright, he has no further right
to prevent use by the public.
Limited publication – such as delivery of a manuscript
to a possible purchaser – does not cause the author to
lose any common law rights.
Copyright Laws and Public
Communications
Copyright issues with photography and artwork.
Determine in contract who owns the copyright to
photos or artwork created by non-employees.
Copyright owner determines use and cost of use
of the creative work.
Be clear about negatives and hard copies.
The organization owns the work that an employee
does on behalf of that organization.
Slander and Libel
Defamation is untruth that damages a reputation.
To qualify as defamation, the statement must be untrue.
Libel – written or pictorial defamation.
Slander – spoken or verbal defamation (need not be
spoken in a public setting).
To be actionable as libel, five elements must be present:
1. Defamation.
2. Identification.
3. Communication (publication or broadcast).
4. Fault (malice or negligence).
5. Damage (or injury).
Slander and Libel
Fair comment – The privilege that insulates a reporter or publication
against defamation.
Fair comment is a recognized defense against a libel action, based on
the argument that the statement was either true or privileged (taken
from a public document).
Reports of official proceedings are privileged and cannot be charged
with libel.
Truth is the traditional defense against libel, but truth is hard to prove.
Libel has four defenses:
1. Truth.
2. Privilege.
3. Fair Comment.
4. Retraction.
Fair Use
Law that allows use of parts of copyrighted materials
without violating copyright laws and without paying a
royalty or fee when used for criticism, comment, news
reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.
If you begin to question how you’re using something
or how much you’re using, be cautious.
Drawing the line as to what is fair use is one of the
most difficult challenges of copyright law.
Intellectual Property
Legal term that describes rights or
entitlements that apply to the ownership and
use of certain types of information, ideas, or
other concepts in an expressed form.
Right of Privacy
This law ensures an individual’s right to be left alone and can
be violated if name, likeness, and/or information is used for
commercial purposes.
Different from defamation – the publication through media
outlets need only injure the feelings of the person, even
though it may have no effect on his or her reputation.
Securing permission from the individual protects the
public relations professional.
Also a good idea to protect your employees’ right of
privacy by obtaining signed waivers.
 Four kinds of damages to privacy exist:
1. Appropriation.
2. Intrusion.
3. Public disclosure of
embarrassing private facts.
4. False light.
Acting Legally and Ethically
Act in the public interest – find the greater good for
the majority of the people.
Use honesty and integrity as your guide.
Ensure accuracy and truth – do not disseminate false
or misleading information.
Deal fairly with the public – respect yourself and
others.
Leave proprietary information behind when you
change jobs.
Industry-Related Codes of Ethics
Public Relations Society of America
International Association of Business
Communicators
American Marketing Association
American Advertising Federation
PRSA Statement of Professional
Values
Values set the industry standard for the professional
practice of public relations.
Values are the fundamental beliefs that guide
communicators’ behaviors and decision-making
processes.
Professional values are vital to the integrity of public
communication as a whole.
Professional Values Identified by PRSA
 Advocacy.
 Honesty.
 Expertise.
Independence.
 Loyalty.
 Fairness.
Professional Values—Advocacy
Public communicators serve the public interest
by acting as responsible advocates for those
they represent.
Public communicators provide a voice in the
marketplace of ideas, facts, and viewpoints to
aid informed public debate.
Professional Values—Honesty
Public communicators adhere to the highest
standards of accuracy and truth in advancing
the interests of those they represent and in
communicating with the public.
Professional Values—Expertise
Public communicators acquire and responsibly
use specialized knowledge and experience.
Public communicators advance the profession
through continued professional development,
research and education.
Public communicators build mutual
understanding and relationships among a wide
array of audiences.
Professional Values—Independence
Public communicators provide objective
counsel to those they represent.
Public communicators are accountable for
their actions.
Professional Values—Loyalty and
Fairness
Public communicators are faithful to those
they represent, while honoring an obligation
serve the public interest.
to
Public communicators deal fairly with clients,
employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the
media, and the general public.
Public communicators respect all opinions and
support the right of free expression.
References
 Aristotle. (1958). The Nicomachean ethics (W. D. Ross,
Trans.). In J. D. Kaplan (Ed.), The pocket Aristotle (pp.
158-274). New York: Simon & Schuster.
Barnard, C. I. (1968). The functions of the executive.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (1997). Reframing organizations:


Artistry, choice and leadership (2nd edition). San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass.
 Etzioni, A. (1975). A comparative analysis of complex
organizations. New York: Free Press.
Fitzpatrick, K. R., & Bronstein, C. (2006). Ethics in public
relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Gower, K. K. (2007). Legal and ethical considerations for
public relations. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.



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Module 2: Ethical Decision Making & Laws Affecting Public Communitcation

  • 1. PA 685: Strategic Management of Public Communications Module 2: Ethical Decision Making & Laws Affecting Public Communication
  • 2. Stages of Moral Thought (Kohlberg) Child – defines right and wrong in terms of what authorities say. Adolescent – defines right and wrong in terms of group loyalty (friends, family, gang, nation). Adult – views right and wrong from universal standards of justice, human rights, and human welfare. Education is what stimulates growth through levels.
  • 3. What are Ethics? Ethics are not the same as morals or feelings. Ethics are not religious teachings. Ethics do not necessarily follow the law. Ethics may run counter to culturally accepted norms. Ethics are not science. Questions underlying discussions of ethics On what do we base our ethical standards? How do we make decisions when we all see things differently through our own personal frames of reference?
  • 4. The Utilitarian Approach to Ethics Focuses on the consequences that actions or policies have on the well-being of all persons directly or indirectly affected by the action or policy. The principle states: "Of any two actions, the most ethical one will produce the greatest balance of benefits over harms." The ethical action is the one that will produce the greatest balance of benefits over harms. Which option will produce the most good and do the least harm?
  • 5. The Rights Approach to Ethics Ethical action is the one that best protects and respects the moral rights of those affected. Each person has a fundamental right to be respected and treated as a free and equal rational person capable of making his or her own decisions. The ethical action is the one that most dutifully respects the rights of all affected. Even if not everyone gets all they want, will everyone's rights and dignity still be respected?
  • 6. The Fairness Approach to Ethics Focuses on how fairly or unfairly our actions distribute benefits and burdens among the members of a group. Fairness requires consistency in the way people are treated. The principle states: "Treat people the same unless there are morally relevant differences between them."  The ethical action is the one that treats people equally, or if unequally, that treats people proportionately and fairly. Which option is fair to all stakeholders?
  • 7. The Common Good Approach to Ethics Presents a vision of society as a community whose members are joined in a shared pursuit of values and goals they hold in common. The community is comprised of individuals whose own good is inextricably bound to the good of the whole. The principle states: "What is ethical is what advances the common good." The ethical action is the one that contributes most to the achievement of a quality common life together. Which option would help all participate more fully in the life we share as a family, community, and society?
  • 8. The Virtue Approach to Ethics Focuses on attitudes, dispositions, or character traits that enable us to be and to act in ways that develop our human potential. Examples: honesty, courage, faithfulness, trustworthiness, integrity, etc. The principle states: "What is ethical is what develops moral virtues in ourselves and our communities." The ethical action is the one that embodies the habits and values of humans at their best. Would you want to become the sort of person who acts this way (e.g., a person of courage or compassion)?
  • 9. Problems With These Approaches We may not agree on the same set of human and civil rights, what constitutes the common good, what is good and what is harmful.  The different approaches may not answer the question “What is ethical?” in the same way. Considering all these perspectives, which of the options is the right or best thing to do? If you told someone you respect why you chose this option, what would that person say? If you had to explain your decision on television, would you be comfortable doing so?
  • 10. The Potter Box Model of Ethical Decision-Making  This ethical decision-making model was derived by Ralph Potter of the Harvard Divinity School.  This model forces the communicators to prioritize the values and audiences that are most important to the organization in a given situation. In most cases, the communicator is juggling relationships with many constituents, none of which can be overlooked.  Four steps of the model 1. Define the situation in terms of the organization and audience. 2. Identify values important to the situation. 3. Select principles and outcomes that are most important. 4. Choose loyalties/audiences and carry out the action.
  • 11. The Navran Model of Ethical Decision-Making  The Navran Model consists of six steps to ensure the consideration of all ethical components in the decision-making process.  The six steps include: 4. 5. 6. Make the decision Implement the decision Evaluate the decision 1. 2. 3. Define the problem Identify available alternatives Evaluate the alternatives  Additionally, the communicator applies four “PLUS” filters to steps 1, 3 and 6. These filters call for considerations to:  (P) Policies – is the decision consistent with your organizational guidelines?  (L) Law – is it within the scope of the law?  (U) Universal – is it aligned with my organization’s values?  (S) Self – does it conform to your personal ethics and beliefs?
  • 12. Ethics and Legal Dimensions of Public Communication Public communicators are encouraged to make ethical decisions, but there is no enforcement with PRSA, IABC, AMA, AAF, and other professional associations. Public communicators are required to follow the laws governing their communication campaigns. Gillett Amendment of 1913 "Appropriated funds may not be used to pay a publicity expert unless specifically appropriated for that purpose." Never intended to ban public relations and public communication by government agencies. Instead, required transparency that publicity was being used—came about in response to government propaganda in the early 20th Century.
  • 13. Copyright Laws and Public Communications Common law copyright – An author who creates a tangible expression of his or her ideas immediately acquires common law copyright of the work. This right continues until the author dedicates the work to the public. Statutory copyright – Author must provide two copies to the Library of Congress and display the copyright symbol © on the material. Notice/use of the copyright symbol must be on the very first copy sold or publically distributed.
  • 14. Copyright Laws and Public Communications The dividing line between common law and statutory copyright is publication. If there is a general publication and the author has not obtained statutory copyright, he has no further right to prevent use by the public. Limited publication – such as delivery of a manuscript to a possible purchaser – does not cause the author to lose any common law rights.
  • 15. Copyright Laws and Public Communications Copyright issues with photography and artwork. Determine in contract who owns the copyright to photos or artwork created by non-employees. Copyright owner determines use and cost of use of the creative work. Be clear about negatives and hard copies. The organization owns the work that an employee does on behalf of that organization.
  • 16. Slander and Libel Defamation is untruth that damages a reputation. To qualify as defamation, the statement must be untrue. Libel – written or pictorial defamation. Slander – spoken or verbal defamation (need not be spoken in a public setting). To be actionable as libel, five elements must be present: 1. Defamation. 2. Identification. 3. Communication (publication or broadcast). 4. Fault (malice or negligence). 5. Damage (or injury).
  • 17. Slander and Libel Fair comment – The privilege that insulates a reporter or publication against defamation. Fair comment is a recognized defense against a libel action, based on the argument that the statement was either true or privileged (taken from a public document). Reports of official proceedings are privileged and cannot be charged with libel. Truth is the traditional defense against libel, but truth is hard to prove. Libel has four defenses: 1. Truth. 2. Privilege. 3. Fair Comment. 4. Retraction.
  • 18. Fair Use Law that allows use of parts of copyrighted materials without violating copyright laws and without paying a royalty or fee when used for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. If you begin to question how you’re using something or how much you’re using, be cautious. Drawing the line as to what is fair use is one of the most difficult challenges of copyright law.
  • 19. Intellectual Property Legal term that describes rights or entitlements that apply to the ownership and use of certain types of information, ideas, or other concepts in an expressed form.
  • 20. Right of Privacy This law ensures an individual’s right to be left alone and can be violated if name, likeness, and/or information is used for commercial purposes. Different from defamation – the publication through media outlets need only injure the feelings of the person, even though it may have no effect on his or her reputation. Securing permission from the individual protects the public relations professional. Also a good idea to protect your employees’ right of privacy by obtaining signed waivers.  Four kinds of damages to privacy exist: 1. Appropriation. 2. Intrusion. 3. Public disclosure of embarrassing private facts. 4. False light.
  • 21. Acting Legally and Ethically Act in the public interest – find the greater good for the majority of the people. Use honesty and integrity as your guide. Ensure accuracy and truth – do not disseminate false or misleading information. Deal fairly with the public – respect yourself and others. Leave proprietary information behind when you change jobs.
  • 22. Industry-Related Codes of Ethics Public Relations Society of America International Association of Business Communicators American Marketing Association American Advertising Federation
  • 23. PRSA Statement of Professional Values Values set the industry standard for the professional practice of public relations. Values are the fundamental beliefs that guide communicators’ behaviors and decision-making processes. Professional values are vital to the integrity of public communication as a whole. Professional Values Identified by PRSA  Advocacy.  Honesty.  Expertise. Independence.  Loyalty.  Fairness.
  • 24. Professional Values—Advocacy Public communicators serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those they represent. Public communicators provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts, and viewpoints to aid informed public debate.
  • 25. Professional Values—Honesty Public communicators adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those they represent and in communicating with the public.
  • 26. Professional Values—Expertise Public communicators acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience. Public communicators advance the profession through continued professional development, research and education. Public communicators build mutual understanding and relationships among a wide array of audiences.
  • 27. Professional Values—Independence Public communicators provide objective counsel to those they represent. Public communicators are accountable for their actions.
  • 28. Professional Values—Loyalty and Fairness Public communicators are faithful to those they represent, while honoring an obligation serve the public interest. to Public communicators deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public. Public communicators respect all opinions and support the right of free expression.
  • 29. References  Aristotle. (1958). The Nicomachean ethics (W. D. Ross, Trans.). In J. D. Kaplan (Ed.), The pocket Aristotle (pp. 158-274). New York: Simon & Schuster. Barnard, C. I. (1968). The functions of the executive. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (1997). Reframing organizations:   Artistry, choice and leadership (2nd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.  Etzioni, A. (1975). A comparative analysis of complex organizations. New York: Free Press. Fitzpatrick, K. R., & Bronstein, C. (2006). Ethics in public relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Gower, K. K. (2007). Legal and ethical considerations for public relations. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.  