Tip Sheet: Ethics & PR: Communications With a Conscience

By Frank Ovaitt
Is there such a thing as public relations ethics? Shannon A. Bowen, Ph.D., of Syracuse University, poses that question in the Institute for Public Relations Essential Knowledge Project's "Ethics and Public Relations" section, which she edits. [The project is an online guide to PR-related research.]
This question opens the door to a significant conversation: If ethics is defined as a systematic approach to deciding the right thing to do, it could indeed be argued that most PR practitioners don't have such a system. The I-know-it-when-I-see-it philosophy rules, but Bowen makes a compelling case for a more disciplined approach to how PR people learn and think about ethics.
Codes Vs. Education
PR associations rely heavily on codes of ethics. Most of these provide little or no effective enforcement. Certainly, they don't go very deep in teaching approaches to ethics.

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