Presentation on theme: "The Ethics of Public Relations: Black and white or 50 shades of grey? Yes, satisfyingly Dark – but is it right?"— Presentation transcript:
The Ethics of Public Relations: Black and white or 50 shades of grey? Yes, satisfyingly Dark – but is it right?
Can you have PR without ethics? Yes. But: PR has the power to shape opinion on a large scale. This brings responsibilities. People are already dubious about the truth. Upholding values (honesty, openness, integrity, doing no harm etc) counters that. If PR is done without considering what is right, eventually the public, the client or the PR themselves suffer.
What ethics in PR is NOT Getting away with it when you know it is wrong. Doing what has always been done because that’s the way things are done. Doing whatever the ‘client’ tells you is right (hierarchy or private client). Abiding by the letter of the law and nothing else.
How do you tell something is ethical? Common model: the ‘Five pillars’: 1 Tell the truth. 2 Non-malfeasance (do no harm). 3 Benificence (do good). 4 Confidentiality. Respect privacy. 5 Fairness.
In practice Conflicts in decisions are inevitable. Question of weighing up values, loyalties, principles. How? Common method is the ‘Potter Box’: - Define the situation. Get the facts. - Identify what values apply (honesty, fairness etc) - Choose which principles are used (the law? Company policy? Code of conduct?) - Choose your loyalties (prioritise stakeholders). Make your decision and make it known.
A personal example: an ethical place? Senior PR at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Daily press contact. Nearly every decision had an ethical component.
The Good Stuff
Ethics Facts easy to obtain, situation easy to define. Values: truth-telling, benificence (‘miracle’ or £), non-malfeasance. Principles: Trust policy on consent, the law. Loyalties are unified: the patient, the Trust, the media, the public. Everyone wants to see a sick child get better and smiling. But...
The Bad Stuff
Ethics Facts easy to obtain, situation easy to define. Values: truth-telling, benificence, non- malfeasance. Principles: Trust policy on consent, the law. Loyalties can be divided: the patient, the Trust, the media. First two outweigh third.
The Really Bad Stuff
Ethics Facts may be hard to obtain in available time, situation may be unknown. Values usually apparent: truth-telling, benificence, non-malfeasance. But without the full facts, how do you tell the consequences? Principles usually easy: Trust policies, the law. Loyalties often divided: the Trust, the media. First usually outweighs the second. But always? Mid Staffs? Barrow? Where managers are failing?
A Really Bad Example
What happened? Facts were not obtained in available time. Management clammed up. Values apparent: truth-telling, benificence, non-malfeasance. But without the facts, impossible to gauge. Principles: Trust policies, the law. Loyalties completely divided: the Trust, the media. Placed in an impossible position.
FAILURE Story went ahead without a good counter- argument (facts unknown). Loyalties were questioned internally. Breakdown in client-PR relationship: external ‘experts’ brought in, in-house team marginalised. Trust senior managers shot themselves in the foot by not allowing an ethical decision. Change of CEO, hardening of attitudes, worsening of PR for the Trust as a whole.
Is PR Good for Journalism?
Yes Many shades of grey. Ethical decision making is important: some common values with journalism, some important differences but both place value in telling the truth and not doing harm. Can be done in a practical, reliable way. Professionalism and a defined ethical code are important to support that. As is a peer network: NUJ