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.
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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 espoused in the codes. Ethical codes may be too vague or don’t give enough specific guidance (Bowen, 2007). 4 Why do we need code of ethics? Societies usually have set of ethical codes and these codes have always been a way of life. It is the same in a professional world. Each code delineates what professionals can and can’t do.
Those codes are guidelines how to practice a profession. The cumulative behavior of the individual practitioners determines the ethical standards. Professional codes are set up to be as practical as possible for the practitioners. The purpose of these codecs is to ensure ethical practices and bring together the community of public relations practitioners. Code of ethics is about the masses as much as it is about the individual. Accountability is very important and that’s why code of ethics is necessary. With a code practitioners know exactly what they can and can’t do.
Code not only help unify the practitioners but also keep them accountable to them selves and to society as whole. 5 How to run an ethical public relations campaign? Public relation practitioner Steven Le Vine in an article How to Run Ethically Sound PR Campaigns offers five tips how to do it: 1. Always be honest If you present one lie in a story, it may help you in the short-term. But in the long-term it can come back to bite you. With lies you ruin your own credibility and no one will take you seriously again. The negative consequences can be tremendous also for a brand. 2. No Pay-For-Play
Certain countries only accept press releases if space within a publication is purchased. Public relations discipline is considered as earned media. But paying for placement delegitimizes a story. It is antithetical to the primary goals of public relations. 3. Don’t Misrepresent Facts If you misrepresent the facts, you destroy your own and the media outlet’s credibility. Beside that you also provide the public incorrect information. 4. Don’t Throw Competition Under the Bus In public arena it is never a good idea to slander your competitors. You can open yourself up to revengeful efforts. 5. Don’t Offer Bribes for Coverage
Bribery makes you and your client desperate if your story is not worthy of print exposure and it does a disservice to all parties. 6 Case Study ??? PR and Children Della Pike and Nigel Jackson made a research on the impact of public relations campaigns to promote toys to children ??? Ethics and the promotion of consumer brands do children: Marketing public relations in UK toy industry (Pike & Jackson, 2006). 6. 1 Introduction The study measures the impact of marketing public relations messages on children and raises questions about ethics of using marketing public relations to promote toys to children.
Although in general the ability of children to make mature consumer decisions increases with the age, the influence of public relations messages doesn’t necessarily decrease with age. Children are for marketers very powerful consumers. They are potential profitable and the childhood became an economic construct. For example, in 2004 The Sun newspaper reported that 7-year-old boy bid nearly ? 750,000 for a Power Ranger toy on eBay. 6. 2 Children and Marketing Public Relations The impact of marketing towards young people became more aggressive in early 1940s. An expanding global economy and cultural changes made children “child customers”.
From the 1960s the potential profitability of children has become a focus for marketing and public relations practitioners. It is even more important for toy industry because toys represent children’s chief desires (up to 55% of their non-food purchases and 54% of their first purchase desires). Many serious ethical issues are raised when promotional messages try to appeal to children directly because children differ in their ability to process consumer information. 6. 3 Results Researchers focused on three age categories: 6-8, 9-11 and 12-14. They compared and contrasted the effects of exposure to marketing public relations campaign messages.
With such age categories they avoided the limited literacy capabilities of younger children and the social acting emphasis of the older teenagers. Each focus group was exposed to examples of the most influential child-focused marketing public strategies like magazines, celebrity endorsement and event sponsorship. Children were asked questions correlating with a pyramid of effects to observe opinion formation. Youngest focus group (6-8 years) was strongly affected by public relation messages, showing a marked impact within levels of sustained behavior.
Lack of cognitive skills and life experience are necessary to evaluate public relations messages. Children of this age haven’t established the perceptual filters required to delineate persuasive intent. They also failed to use the information collected in a rational way. The egocentricity of 6-8 year old children disallows alternative points of view. In the second group (9-11 years) was detected a large increase in cognitive defenses. There is an absence of data in the latter levels of effect, demonstrating the limited impact of public relations messages on this age group.
Children aged 9-11 were able to consider stimuli in a more complex fashion and flexible approach to decision-making was witnessed. The oldest group (12-14 years) have the knowledge of alternative resolutions to provide a cognitive defense against promotional messages. Teenagers in this age group use phrases such as: “That’s just an advertisement. ” Although the growth in cognitive abilities, they were strongly influenced by the public messages they were exposed to. The following figure shows different influences across focus groups.
In a neo-liberal, capitalistic society, based on profit maximization, are industry experts associated with a teleological ethical paradigm. Researchers interviewed three public relations practitioners in toy industry. Editor of a leading toy industry trade magazine: “It’s an open market. ” PR executive and publishing assistant specializing in licensed children’s products: “I don’t see that there’s anything morally wrong with it. ” Marketing manager for toy company: “At the end of the day, I’m employed to make sure that our toys sell. ” On the other hand public relations practitioners would ask is it wrong to target who your market is.
This is the nature of free-market economy where children are viewed as an economic construct. 6. 4 Conclusion No definitive correlation between age and public relations impact was found in this study. But it doesn’t invalidate any promotional effect. Researchers on results: We propose that practitioners’ tolerance towards, or indeed perceived ignorance of, what parents may consider unethical behavior may be explained by a “paradox of reward”; that is the bottom-line mentality of neo-liberalist profit maximization, in which the pursuit of career goals subsumes altruistic aims.
Survey of parental perceptions of unethical behavior may have been influenced by additional factors: -media messages -a parental response -the self-selected nature of the example 7 Prevention of moral and ethical conflicts Modern public relations have very significant effects on the democratic process in place today. Interested parties have the opportunity to confuse and disrupt public debates about issues vital to the public interest. It can result in reduction of society’s ability to react effectively in issues of societal and political importance.
But there are some guidelines that public relations practitioners can follow to avoid moral and ethical conflicts (VoteForUs. com). Be knowledgeable in public relations First of all must public relations professionals have knowledge and focus on ethics before they come in a situation of difficult moral decision. They need to be familiar with ethical values of their organizations. When a crisis of conflicting interests comes it may be too late. Be aware of your values Public relations practitioners need to be aware of their values.
It helps them when these values are under pressure by a client or by the public. Be able to identify sticky situations PR professionals need to identify issues that have the potential to become ethical dilemmas. Early identification will allow more time for analysis, discussion, research and resolution of these issues. Walk the talk of the mission statement Pubic relations practitioners should be aware of the fundamental values in theirs organizations. They need to encourage discussion and ethical debate throughout the organization by using internal communications. Train your staff well
Educated staff will prevent ethical dilemmas. It will contribute to the success of the organization in relationships with publics and clients. References Bowen, Shannon A. (2007). Ethics and Public Relations. http://www. instituteforpr. org/topics/ethics-and-public-relations Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://www. iep. utm. edu/ethics Le Vine, Steven. How to Run Ethically Sound PR Campaigns. http://aboutpublicrelations. net/uclevine3. htm Lieber, Paul Stuart (2003). Ethics in public relations: Gauging ethical decision-making patterns of public relations practitioners. ttp://etd. lsu. edu/docs/available/etd-0707103-111615/unrestricted/Lieber_thesis. pdf Pike, Della & Jackson, Nigel (2006). Ethics and the promotion of consumer brands to children: Marketing public relations in the UK Toy industry. Prism 4(1): http://praxix. massey. ac. nz/prism_on-line_journ. html PRSA (2000). Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Member Code of Ethics. http://www. prsa. org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/CodeEnglish/ VoteForUs. com. Ethics in Public Relations 5 Points to Keep in Mind. http://www. voteforus. com/ethicsinpublicrelations. html