Ethics in Public Relations: A Guide to Best Practice

Ethics in Public Relations: A Guide to Best Practice

by Patricia J. Parsons

Paperback(Third Edition)

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While ethical practice in any profession is guided by timeless philosophical perspectives, ongoing developments in technology, social media, and social contexts offer new challenges, especially in the field of public relations (PR).  Ethical questions and dilemmas are inherent to public relations, and it is essential that practitioners act ethically.  Public relations professor Patricia J. Parsons explores the key ethical concerns present in the PR world today and offers practical tips and guidance in this updated third edition of Ethics in Public Relations.

The book covers practicing respect and morality, authorship, conflict of interest, PR and the corporate ethics program, moonlighting, and the impact of whistleblowing.  Additionally, there is a new section on sexual harassment, new chapters on social media, ethics in relation to blogger engagement, the development of internal organization image, and extended organizational reputation, and a completely revised section on leadership in PR.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780749477264
Publisher: Kogan Page, Ltd
Publication date: 04/28/2016
Series: PR in Practice Series
Edition description: Third Edition
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Patricia J. Parsons was formerly a faculty member and chairman in the Department of Communication Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Canada retiring recently as a full Professor.  Her research, writing and teaching focused on public relations ethics and strategy, and healthcare communication.  She is accredited in public relations and is a member of the Canadian Public Relations Society's College of Fellows, and she can be reached via email at or via Twitter @ethicsinpr.

Table of Contents

List of figures
About the author
About the consultant editor

Part One What lies beneath

01 Before we begin: New profession... or one of the oldest?
Public relations ethics: oxymoron?
A tarnished history
Defining our terms
A profession or professionalism?
Aspiring to professionalism
Measuring your professionalism quotient

02 Lies, truth and honesty: Their role in PR practice
An epidemic of lying
The ‘truth’ in public relations
Can you predict honesty?
One principle among several

03 Truth, trust and the virtue of being ‘good’
Truth and trust
The limits of organizational responsibility
To whom are you loyal?
The virtue of being ‘good’

04 Whose rights are right?
Rights and responsibilities
When my right conflicts with yours
Conflicting rights in public relations

05 The trouble with rules
Rules rule our lives
Those darn deontologists
The real trouble with rules
‘Situations alter cases’
Moral relativism and situations
The problem with situations

06 Utilitarianism: Right acts and wrong reasons
What the heck is ‘utilitarianism’?
Motives be damned
Problems with Robin Hood

Part Two Ethics and the practitioner

07 Your moral development: Cultivating respect and humility
Still the moral child
The moral child grows up
An ethical litmus test?
More than good manners: ethics and etiquette
Sexual harassment and respect
Morality and your level of competence
The virtue of humility

08 Codes of ethics: The good, the bad and the (almost) ugly
Codes as contracts
Minimum standards or ideals?
Who needs codes, anyway?
A global code?
Relying on a personal code
Using personal values
Developing your own code

09 Conflicts of interest: Sex and other relationship issues
Defining a conflict
Sleeping with... the enemy?
Practicalities before ethics
Outside conflicts
Personal relationships and ethical principles
Other conflict situations

10 (Very) personal ethical decisions: Whistle-blowing and moonlighting
A dilemma you don’t need
A continuum of tattling
How to be a whistle-blower
The temptations of moonlighting

Part Three Strategies and dilemmas

11 Public relations ethics and traditional media
Our relationship with journalists
Media access and ethics
Journalists have codes, too
Aspects of ethical media relations
Media transparency and PR ethics
PR ethics and the disappearing gatekeepers

12 PR ethics and social media
New media, new ethical dilemmas
Inauthentic online communication
Sponsored online material
Social media and your internal public
Ethics and ‘native advertising’
Guidance for ethical social media engagement

13 Persuasion, propaganda and advocacy: The ethics of influence
Engineering consent
Ethical persuasion... an oxymoron?
PR for biker gangs?
Any client, any time?
The advocate arises
The ‘right’ to PR counsel
Sneaky propaganda
A war of words
The pitfalls of euphemism
The ‘controlled lexicon’
The vocabulary of public relations
Persuasion by lobby
Transparency versus obfuscation

14 Supporting ‘good causes’: Bad ethics or bad taste?
‘Aware’ of the issues
A staple of community relations
Seeking a good fit
From good causes to good taste

15 Deceptive authorship: Ghostwriting and plagiarism
A PR practice
The unseen author
Crossing the line?
Acceptable versus unacceptable uses

Part Four Organizations, ethics and public relations

16 Making decisions: The true reality of everyday ethics
Why make a decision at all?
The best you can hope for
Ethical dilemmas: not all the same
Decision steps
Making those ethical decisions in PR
A case in point
Other approaches
Criteria for second-guessing
PR practitioners as ethical decision-makers
The researcher told us so

17 PR and the corporate ethics programme
Organizational ethics/Pr ethics:not the same thing
Ethics as window-dressing
Social responsibility defined
The case of the triple bottom line
Organizational ethics and PR

18 The future of ethical public relations: Education and leadership
Why we care about an ethical future
Back to the classroom
Developing future PR leaders
Drawing to a conclusion

Appendix 1: For your bookshelf
Appendix 2: Chartered Institute of Public Relations Code of Conduct
Appendix 3: Guidelines for the ethics audit


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