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Nowadays, Public Relations is one of the fastest-growing fields of professional employment worldwide. The public relation profession is constantly having to adapt to the needs of society through which different people and different organizations from different countries form a variety of definitions. For this reason, the number of ethical dilemmas in public relations continues to grow as well.
Some of the issues with ethics that can be found with public relations is the withholding of information from the public, directly and indirectly paying for ‘independent’ and ‘objective’ views and opinions, biased approaches and loyalty, distortion of reality, propaganda, bailing out and promotion of questionable industries, the funding of front groups by various industries, the use of Video News Releases, the Accreditation in Public Relations, and pseudo events. The Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics has a foundation that lies in the Member Statement of Professional Values. These Values include advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, and fairness. There are also six provisions involved in the PRSA Member Code of Ethics: Enhancing the Profession, Conflicts of Interest, Safeguarding Confidences, Disclosure of Information, Competition, and Free Flow Information. Of all the Principles and values listed above, I find the most important of the list to be the Value of Fairness and the Principle of Free Flow Information.
The Core Principle of Free Flow of Information states, “Protecting and advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information is essential to serving the public interest and contributing to informed decision making in a democratic society”. What I believe this means is that the member should be honest in all proceedings, correct any wrong information promptly, and be sure that the free flow of information is preserved and unbiased. One thing that interested me was Henry Mintzberg’s outline over the five definitions of strategy including strategy as a plan, pattern, position, perspective, and ploy. As a plan, strategy is concerned with setting up guidelines to establish direction for an organization. As a pattern, strategy consists of various actions carried out with consistency by firms. Strategy as a position looks at how organizations interact with the external environment and how they place themselves in the competitive environment.
One thing that truly stood out to me was the mention of the VNR’s, or the Video News Releases, which are video segments made to look like a news report aimed to inform an audience, however it is created by a public relations firm, advertising agency, marketing firm, corporation, or government agency. The issue with the ethics behind the VNR’s is the issue of deception to the audience or using these segments as a propaganda technique. VNR’s are a vital part for news delivery, however when the news becomes more of a commercial for a company, many issues with ethics begins to form that allow for many to ponder the line between right and wrong of the ethics regarding public relations.
Over time, I feel that the ethical issues regarding public relations will improve and evolve with the time. What is unethical right now may not be unethical in the future. For this reason, it is important for journalist and people in PR to focus on the many the issues now in public relations to learn and improve.