Obligations of a Strategic Communicator

By: Meredith Erikson

Ethics is by default always a controversial topic. Not one person has the exact same set of morals and beliefs as another person. This is why there will always be mixed opinions on particular advertisements or public relations tactics. Advertising is a great expression of opinion and art. It is a great freedom that artists and corporations have to be able to express their creativity. However, there are social responsibilities advertisers should respect when they present their work to the world. To answer the question, “what obligation do strategic communicators have in terms of goodwill toward the audience,” it is to be as truthful as possible and to not to deceive the public. Lying can create distrust from the public towards the company or brand of the advertisement.

It is also necessary that strategic communicators respect the dignity of humans. Communication must be mindful of all human beings because nobody is made the same way and people have insecurities and disabilities that are sensitive to themselves. The public can so easily be offended by advertisements that portray a person in an inappropriate way. I believe strategic communicators fulfill this obligation for the most part however there are instances where this is not always the case. For example, Kylie Jenner posed on the cover of Interview magazine in a wheelchair, positioned like a mannequin. This sparked a lot of controversy because Ophelia Brown, a young girl who uses a wheelchair, was extremely offended by the photo and started firing back at Jenner on Twitter. Brown thought the photo was disrespectful to those who are disabled. The publication stated that their intention was not to offend anyone. Even though both Jenner and the magazine have the freedom to express their creativity, from a PR standpoint it was not the best way for them to represent themselves because it gave the opportunity for the public to question their values.

When it comes to the balance of working for a client’s best interest and keeping in mind the public’s best interest, it can be a difficult decision. If a client wants to do something that seems like an unethical idea, it’s best to remind them what the outcome of that decision can be. It is important to be honest with your client but overall, strategic communicators are creating public messages so it’s an obligation do what’s best in the public’s interest. If a client’s interest defies your personal set of beliefs, it’s up to you to make the decision and to use your best judgement whether you want to continue representing them.




Fisher, K. (2015, December 1). Kylie Jenner’s Wheelchair Sparks Major Backlash. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.eonline.com/news/720262/kylie-jenner-sparks-backlash-for-wheelchair-in-interview-magazine-defends-against-media-scrutiny

Moore, C. (2004). Ethics in Advertising. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.aef.com/on_campus/classroom/speaker_pres/data/3001

Ethics codes for PR. (2006). Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.nku.edu/~turney/prclass/ethics.html


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