PR Professionals: Unethical?

January 28, 2022

Public relations campaigns shape the public’s perception. PR experts can flip a situation to make it negative or positive based on the desired outcome. Entrepreneur discussed how public relations campaigns challenge societal ethics and give a new meaning to Orwell’s doublethink: “Public Relations Bring Ethics Under The Spotlight.” PR experts have been accused for decades for shaping reality and the past few years have exploded with fake blogging, fake grassroots lobbying, and stealth marketing.

These nefarious PR tactics are only the tip of the iceberg, because controlling reality goes further with training spokespeople to remain silent in media interviews, monitoring their social media channels, and backtracking when necessitated. This goes against what the true purpose of PR:

“Monitoring and criticism from outside and inside the public relations industry keep a watch on the vast industry that public relations has become. This, in turn, makes practitioners and the industry responsive to what constitutes appropriate conduct. Ethical public relations should not aim merely to confuse or cause equivocation but should inform and honestly influence judgment based on good reasons that advance the community. A necessary precondition of professionalism is ethically defensible behavior. Such a framework derives from philosophical and religious attitudes to behavior and ethics, laws and regulations, corporate and industry codes of conduct, public relations association codes of ethics, professional values and ethics, training and personal integrity.”

Keeping ethics in the in PR practice appears to be a thing of the past, especially with the actions of many world governments before and after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

There are three fundamental ethical practices: teleology, deontology, and Aristotle’s Golden Mean. Immanuel Kant is the founder of modern ethics and he developed a three step method to solve ethical dilemmas:

“1. When in doubt as to whether an act is moral or not, apply the categorical imperative, which is to ask the question: “What if everyone did this deed?”

2. Always treat all people as ends in themselves and never exploit other humans.

3. Always respect the dignity of human beings.”

PR experts are subject to the same demands as everyone else: they must make a living in order to survive. Unlike the average retail or office worker, they have skills that changes the public perception of an event, organization, or individual. PR experts usually respond to the demands of their clients, because the client is paying the bills. Saying no. Maybe not too popular at some firms?

Whitney Grace January 28, 2022


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