CO 350

Spring, 13



BP 8

Approaches to PR Ethics: different philosophical approaches



Mycampus link: PR Ethics Resource Center

Under the link “definitions,” find and describe (in your own words) the following general ethical approaches: (can you tell the difference between them?)

  1. Teleology

This is also known as “utilitarianism.”  A question that can define teleology would be “What does the most good for the most people?”  This is a results-oriented ideology.  When applied to public relations, it shows that public relations should benefit the public and not just the company.

  1. Deontology

“Deontology” is also sometimes referred to as duty or humanitarian ethics.  This ideology takes the viewpoint that humans treat each other with respect and that any action that doesn’t treat humans with dignity as wrong.  That viewpoint is what establishes lying as an unethical practice in public relations.

  1. Situational

Situational ethics insists on making the best decision for each situation.  This viewpoint is most useful when trying to make a decision between obligation to two or more publics.


Under the link “theories,” answer the following: :

  1. In your own words, explain the theory of “responsible advocacy” . What organization uses this theory?

Those who follow the theory of responsible advocacy might have trouble dealing with the dilemma between the loyalty to a social conscience and loyalty to the company.  In the responsible advocacy theory, the practitioners’ first loyalty is to the company or organization and then to the publics.


  1. In your own words, explain the theory of “enlightened self interest.” Some would say that this makes ethics a means to the end of profit—do you agree?

The enlightened self-interest model states that businesses who practice ethically are well-respected by their publics and clients and therefore gain more profits versus other companies that do not follow ethical practices.


  1. In your own words, explain the “attorney-adversary model” – what does this theory think of the public interest?

The attorney-adversary model is a model that sees public relations as a similar field to law.  Public relations sees its practitioners as lawyers in the court of public opinion.  They feel as if they have no obligation to the public interests since there will always be an adverse opinion.


Mycampus file: Ethical issues for the 21st century

  1. Is “truth” typically considered to be a simple concept in PR practice?

No, it is not a simple concept.  There is always a dilemma between whether or not withholding information is a lack of truth, or whether selectively telling the truth is the whole truth.  Some schools say that being completely truthful with an organization’s public is the only way to operate while others say that discretion is a key element to public relations.


  1. Is lack of telling the truth always a result of simply withholding information? Explain

Not always, sometimes a lack of truth results from a misrepresentation of communication.  That means that some of the information might be presented in a way that means something different to the audience than what it means to the speaker.  This can often happen with cultural differences.


  1. What is the difference between “information” and “truth”?

Information is the set of facts and the truth is the presentation of these facts in a way that is clear and understandable to the public in such a way that the presentation does not confuse the public into thinking that the information is something that it is not.


  1. Is a PR professional always most responsible to society at large?

It is not always most responsible to society at large because PR professionals’ loyalties remain first to their company’s interest.  If the professional is following this logic, then there will be some points in which the practitioner will not be responsible to the society and publics.


  1. What has Kruckeberg argued for?

A universal ethics code for public relations

  1. What problem does Day see in universal ethics codes?

Communications practices might be different in one country to another.   For instance, in some countries it is perfectly ethical to bribe customs to receive a passport in a speedier manner.  The customs of one country might not be unethical to some and that could create a problem.

  1. Summarize what the article seems to be saying about dialogic communication

Dialogic communication is a manner in which there is two way communication between an organization and its publics and that information is used to further strategize the company’s operating plan with the publics in mind, and the communication is open and honest.


  1. True or false: according to Day and Dong, “true dialogue” is where the organization seeks to get the public to change through means of education and persuasion.



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