Ethics in Public Relations


“What is ethics or morally right?” The question of what “ethical” means is hard to determine because it depends on people’s values and their undergoing circumstances.  People want to be right and honest as possible, but there are situations that shake our judgments and give uncertainty about our decisions. The code of ethics is one of the critical roles that the PR professionals should face in reality. In the business world, we sometimes need to lie for our own goods or good of others.

Michael Meath, a professor at the Newhouse School of Public Communications, teaches a course named The Ethics of Advocacy for Public Relations. He was gave a lecture on “Thursday Ethics,” which means that corporations have difficulties in making ethical decisions on Thursday because decision-making gets more difficult as the week goes on.

 Professor Meath defined ethics as a systematic attempt that makes sense of our individual social moral experience. In order to be successful in business and Public Relations, professionals need to have and fulfill three elements: strategy, integrity, and communication. The major discussion for students during this lecture was what ethics is and what decisions can be made when they face given situations that they cannot easily give right decisions.

He said that being ethical is even harder when more people are involved in a decision.  To ethically make right decisions, a two-way communication is more influential and powerful than having a one-way communication.  As positions get higher up and more professional, ethics plays a big role in regards to one’s responsibility.

Personal frame, education, experiences are the factors that people get their ethics from. Personal frame is what continues to develop as people go through their lives and education. Those undergoing education and life become experienced. Also, these different lived experienced causes people to have different perspectives.

As the lecture processed, professor Meath questioned whether business was fundamentally moral or not.  A student answered that business is fundamentally moral since PR practitioners can give others the perception that it is moral and ethical. In my perspective, business is meant to be moral, but certain factors such as money and human interactions can easily make it immoral.

Professor Meath suggested that business is a human activity that is an important part of society. Since it is a human activity, ethical problems arise because people have different views. Being moral is generally forgotten in the world of business, and society dictates business as social enterprise.

The lecture was concluded with points that suggested people should not deny their personal frames and instincts; instead, they should tell people what their ethical views on certain issues are.  As people practice decision-making, people can improve their decision-making ethically.


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