Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Ethical Values Reflect Responsibility to Client, Organization and Self

Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Ethical Values Reflect Responsibility to Client, Organization and Self

Article excerpt

The ethics of public relations practice tend to be governed by what the practitioner sees as his responsibility to top management, the organization and himself. Balancing the demands of many internal and external publics is also a key ethical challenge. Those were two conclusions of a panel addressing specific ethical situations at the PRSA Conference. The importance of identifying the values of an organization in order to craft ethics codes as guidelines for business conduct was also emphasized.

Despite organizational guidelines, "the locus of ethics is in the individual; what he or she belives to be right," stated panel moderator Richard H. Truitt, Fellow, PRSA. He's a principal in the consulting firm Truitt & Arnold, New York City.

One case the panel reviewed involved a report on the 10-year record of affirmative acttio at a large bank. Details of the case were related by Bruce Crawley, APR, president of the public relations firm Crawley, Haskins & Rodgers, Philadelphia, PA. The report, submitted to Crawley for "editing and marketing" when he was vice president of the bank's communications department, showed a good record of affirmative action on hiring and promoting women but not minorities. His department was not asked to comment on the report's content.

Crawley chose to advise his management not to issue the report and to "take steps to improve the performance of the affirmative action department." His action resulted in the creation of a senior level affirmative action review panel.

A question of accountability

The case raised the question of accountability, Crawley explained. He had to be accountable to corporate management as well as be "sensitive" to concerns of employees, an important internal public. Corporate credibility is most strained when a company's own statements are misbelieved within the company, he noted.

"While balancing both management mandates and anticipating internal responses may be difficult, and sometimes career-threatening, the ethical effort to do precisely that is an indispensable component of the public relations practitioner's professional portfolio," Crawley concluded.

"This case points up what's good for the client," added Mari Maseng Will, principal in Maseng Communications, Washington, DC. …

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