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Solving Ethical Dilemmas in Public Relations

According to The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “The field of ethics, also called moral philosophy, involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior”. The definition of ethics in simple form is to distinguish right from wrong, fair from unfair and good from bad. Ethics are the principles that a person shapes its believes and behavior. Ethics in public relations values trust, loyalty, honesty, respect, openness and straight forward mindset.

Ethics in PR can be complicated and confusing. Sometimes we might not know what steps can lead to what conclusion. Dealing with ethical issues requires urgent address. Ethical issues in relation with media can cause a major backlash and harsh criticism that can affect the pr companies as well as the clients that they are handling. Nowadays separating right from wrong has become a hard task. Due to social media and internet, we don’t know what’s the truth and what’s hidden behind the cameras and the information that we are provided with. It is important to be honest in the field of public relations, so that people put their trust and beliefs in you and significantly in your clients. Expressing ourselves with correct ethics helps in avoiding being mentioned as a “PR ploy”, a “PR maneuver” or a “PR effort”. Informed and sincerely influencing judgement based on good grounds that improve the community should be the goals of ethical public relations rather than merely confusing or causing ambiguity. Public relations ethics is the application of information, comprehension, and logic to issues involving right and wrong conduct in the field of public relations.

Below are some ethical dilemmas that Public Relations face along with its solutions:

  1. A PR professional faces lots of criticism even in general if that the information they provide are not the truth and merely an act of PR. They are judged and criticized heavily even if a small misinformation is being shared. In that case a PR professional must only share the details if he/she has had the confirmed and proper information. They should not try to create a fake image in the public and stay true to its values and ethics.
  • It is also said that PR has a very negative impact on the nation by deceiving and derailing public opinions. Molding the views of public according to their own ways to gain advantage and publicity for their own good is one the things a PR act is referred to. PR should be transparent in such situations. Showing the thoughts that they want to by being honest and offering the facts while communicating with the audiences. Hiding the truth can do no good rather expressing themselves so that even the audiences understand the intentions behind an act is the right way to approach in PR.
  • Many times we are faced with the hurdles of how to convey an incident or an act. In which case seldom we end up talking only about the facts and not explain the background behind it. A PR professional doesn’t only state the matter but it offers a whole context for a story. Explaining why an event was held, why is it important, what was the concept behind it and what more can it offer is the ethical way to do a PR.
  • Another ethical dilemma that a PR professional faces is the conflict between personal perceptions of morality and corporate perceptions. People come from different backgrounds and different social circles. They have their own perception and beliefs of things. What a company is trying to portray can or not go with the beliefs of people. And so it’s a PR’s work to put out the ideas in such a way that is not offensive and is being respectful towards the believes of people especially in case of any sentimental topic.

PR is a profession that rotates around maintaining an image of a company and conveying a message to the public in an ethical way. Dealing with ethical issues is one of the major skills required in a PR professional. To avoid ruining the very image they aim to establish through the broadcast of specific information to the public, it is crucial for professional communicators in the public relations industry to retain some level of ethics. Making a decision is difficult because it depends on a number of facts that can put us in ethical dilemma. However, it’s a PR professional’s work to consider all the aspects of decision making and overall image that they are trying to portray without compromising the credibility, objectives and dignity of the firm.

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