The practice of public relations is being faced by uniquely challenging ethical issues that must be handled with exceptional techniques. Various reasons for having ethical considerations in this field of specialization are the protection of integrity, development of public trust, and professional reputation. In other words, Singer (2014) and Wilfrid Waluchow (2013) outline that successes in public relations depend on ethical practices from the constituent professionals depending on their organizational roles. Therefore, members must be able to navigate the current ethical landscape in terms of applications and principles that are widely regarded as standardized, and core developers of notable professional development.
In the article by Lee (2012), “A knowledge management approach to understanding ethical knowledge in public relations” the main focus is an explication of characteristics that define ethical knowledge and theoretical frameworks that provide ethical guidelines. As per the article, using the knowledge approach offers tacit elements that outline personal, intangible and subjective factor that introduce communication difficulties among public relation professionals. It is the underlying reason for using methodical approaches that show how ethical know-how has become a professional construct that is grounded on individual experiences and actions that are shareable in the workplace.
This article further reinforces the importance of implementing holistic approaches to ethical principles throughout the featured field of study. The authors advocate for increased training through structured programs, professional codes, and other aspects that increase professional values up to personal levels. More often, ethical codes are supported by the congruence of personal values and formal initiatives among public relation practitioners. The combination of these aspects helps in understanding how ethics is transferred into different situations, as well as their understanding of how they shape conceptualization of ethical know-how throughout the profession. The study, therefore, offers empirical contributions from a philosophical and normative perspective.
From the explanation by Lee (2012), ethics is all about determining what is right and wrong. Then, the appropriate action can be determined in accordance with the intended outcomes. However, ethical dilemmas are characteristic when values, interests, and competing priorities emerge when public relation practitioners encounter several stakeholder competing welfares. This is the reason for the growing interest in public relation ethics that are transferable through knowledge, education, and research rather than reliance on intuition and experimental learning. Excellent understanding of ethical know-how is vital for developing formal and informal strategies that are effective in transferring knowledge about ethics in the professional field of public relations.
Among the most striking lessons from the article is that ethical discussions in public relations take a normative and philosophical approach irrespective of the situational challenges. Professionals in this field must fulfill their moral obligations to different stakeholders including the appropriate mechanisms to avoid unprecedented lapses. Interestingly, some practitioners thought that ethical decisions are based on age, experience, education, and political ideology as per workplace specifications. Contradictory views have emerged from such believes as more people have discovered that knowledge of ethics is derived from academic study and professional experience. In fact, several professionals have outlined that study of ethics and its relation to public relations is inevitable to practitioners so that the can make effective decisions when faced with competing priorities.
On the other hand, authors like Griseri & Seppala (2010) and Smith (2012) agree that ethics is compelling and heavily dependent on predefined roles from professional organizations. However, the finding that most public relation professionals are not contributing to the institutionalization of ethics is an interesting revelation showing the existence of untapped resources in integrities programs. It is powerful because it helps in identification and investment in avenues with professional gaps to improve professional efficacy since public relations if filled with ethical dilemmas. Ethical leadership, interpersonal behaviors, and articulated standards are requisite elements for developing knowledge-based approaches to instilling moral perceptions among practitioners.
From my experience in the workplace, some instances can be related to the featured article when certain incidences happened and required presentation of information to the public. A classic example is related to the provision of truthful information irrespective of pressures to twist or bend the truth so as to protect organizational interests. One notable occurrence is a dilemma that emerged when one of the warehouses burnt down. The management wanted it to seem minor when the company had in fact lost significant inventory in the process. Considering that it may cause massive controversies and investigations, creating a cover up story seemed a viable option but with profound ethical consequences.
Donaldson (2013) explains that transfer of ethical knowledge through training enables practitioners to make the most appropriate decisions in spite of the prevailing interests. Based on the incident mentioned above, provision of truthful information prevents future investigations about ethical violations that resulted in a misrepresentation of information and misleading stakeholders. In the end, the company was to face more losses in terms of public trust, confidence, brand reputation, and loss of business. Instead, emphasis on factual information would help in implementing safer warehouse processes, inventory management, and business practices that alleviate possible future occurrence. Therefore, handling this incident with its dilemmas makes communication more than the presentation of what people want to hear, but, authentic context.
Being a profession that is filled with emergent moral dilemmas, ethical leadership is necessary for making choices that prevent significant implications to personal career, professional development, and business progression. It is the role of public relations professionals to spearhead institutionalization of ethics so that their actions are articulate and conforms to acceptable industry standards (Caywood, 2012). Effective application of this article information involves understanding the role of formal training and personal experiences in developing ethical frameworks and practices that define good moral thinking, accurate decision making and development of industry benchmarks that are comparable to other professionals.
Another way of applying the information is conducting additional reviews and research to increase the current levels of professional development. In the process, it is possible to understand the nature of ethical know-how, its relation to public relations, and its transmission for efficient sharing among the practitioners. Also, characteristics of ethical knowledge can be identified using this information so that they can be used to shape professional and personal conceptualization of decent practices within the current organizational context. Hence, this information applies to all public relations aspects due to the nature of professional dilemmas that must be handled irrespective of their competing requirements.
Selection of this article was based on various considerations relative to the field of public relations. One of the reasons is that the profession is filled with ethical dilemmas generated by stakeholders, employees, organization, and personal interests depending on incidental conditions. Understanding how knowledge-based frameworks can be used to instill moral practices instead of relying on experience and intuition is, therefore, essential for handling conflicting situations despite the level of professionalism in relation to functional administrative structures.
Further, the article reviews major ethical theories, deontological and teleological, that define individual schools of thought in terms of value efficiency, outcomes, and maximization of utility. The article also differentiates conception of ethics as practice and process of making effective decisions based on predefined frameworks. Using the decision-making processes, people can make choices based on their understanding of ethical knowledge rather than being limited to fixed frameworks and professional codes. These are the reasons that facilitated the choice of the article since it focuses on the fundamental professional principles.
- Caywood, C. (2012). The handbook of strategic public relations and integrated marketing communications. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
- Donaldson, T. (2013). Ethics and excellence: Cooperation and integrity in business. Journal of Business Ethics, 342-351.
- Griseri, P., & Seppala , N. (2010). Business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Singapore: CENGAGE Lrng.
- Lee, S. T. (2012). A knowledge management approach to understanding ethical knowledge in public relations. Journal of Communication Management, 185-203.
- Singer, P. (2014). Practical ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Smith, R. (2012). Strategic planning for public relations. Routledge: Routledge.
- Wilfrid Waluchow, J. (2013). The dimensions of ethics: An introduction to ethical theory. Peterborough: Broadview Press.