What is Ethical and Unethical practices in public relations?

Ethical in Public relations

Public Relations has become indispensable for any organization. It is now a vital function affecting management decisions in organizations. Public Relations passed through tumults phases before evolving as a profession and gaining universal status.

Given below are some of the reasons why Public Relations has been indispensable for organizations:
  • Right of expression and freedom of information have been recognized.
  • Development in telecommunication and transport.
  • Opening up of traditionally closed societies and increasing globalization.
  • Government employing Public Relation practice for staying in power as well as for development.
  • Growth in business, amalgamations, collaborations, operating with subsidiaries, spread boundaries and in different cultures.

Unethical Practices in Public Relations

During the early growth period of Public Relations, in the guise of press agents Public Relations person used to indulge in unethical Practices to achieve their ends. That brought bad name to Public Relations profession and it was labelled as “white washing”, “sugar coating” and “propaganda”. Even today, some people take Public Relations in that way.

What is ethical and what is unethical is subjective and difficult to describe. It is however, easier to choose between the right and wrong options in keeping with the conscience. A wrong option causes dissonance in the mind and a feeling of guilt and dishonesty is created. A dishonest communication cannot help in cementing relationships. You also cannot underestimate public as fools. As Abraham Lincoln said, “you can fool some people all the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time”.

In this profession, you may come across a situation like promoting a concept like smoking, which is hazardous to health. Should you publicize a cigarette? You may come across many such situations and you will get confused. You must have faith in the organization or the cause that you work for. Otherwise you cannot perform. You must be yourself convinced before you try to convince others. Given below are some of the acts that can be classified as unethical:

  • Suppressing news which are not favorable.
  • Manipulating facts.
  • Promising to serve a cause but actually serving some other interest.
  • Promising results that cannot be achieved.
  • Using undesirable methods towards influencing editors for carrying publicity material.

Thus, like any other profession, there is scope for abuse in Public Relations too. But effective Public Relations cannot alter a wrong doing.

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