Ethics and PR

February 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm (Public Relations) (, , , , , )

Interesting debate tok place this week in class about ethics. One group argued that only PR practitioners working for the third sector (like NGO’s) can really to PR ethically.
It is understandable that those who work for society in a direct form (through charities, NGO’s not to mention if this is all volunteer work)  has a higher moral status. On the other hand it is not unethical to earn money while doing your job ethically. This is not industry specific.  Most discussions revolved around the money issue. Of course PR people at NGO’s also need to get paid because they have a life responsibilities and checks like everyone else. Therefore it is no surprise they work and get paid like everyone else. If you look at this from the NGO’s side if your cause is important to you, you want to get the best PR people on your side even if you have to pay for it. Right? Ethically it is nothing wrong with that. If you achieve your cause it was well worth it. Of course we are not talking about overpaying anyone (whatever that means, limits are blurred).

It is also not fair to say that if one belongs to those who do not work for NGO’s than their ethics are questionable. Usually people tend to know right from wrong (regardless of which one they choose) and make steps accordingly.  PR people have a very complex situation with their duty to society, duty to the boss and client. On the other hand when you go into a job like this you need to be able to represent your views as well. This takes the necessary courage to sit down and explain why this is unethical and suggest ethical alternatives whenever possible.  Being unethical, giving in to pressure can get back to you in form of bad professional reputation, guilt (or even legal consequences, but for the sake of argument lets assume laws had been respected). Therefore being ethical is also a somewhat self serving thing. Being “good” to others is being “good” to yourself.

I find it really useful to talk through difficult scenarios. It was great to hear what my classmates had to say. I think codes of conduct are important, but looking at situations can often offer more practical guidelines.  It is definitely the most one can do to prepare for future issues.

For more info on what PR ethics are look up:

CIPR Code of Conduct

PRSA Code of Ethics

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