The “New” Public Relations

By: Meredith Erikson

Ethics is what constitutes what is right and wrong in our society. However, every individual has their own set of morals that defines what is right or wrong to them. That being said, to answer the question whether or not PR practitioners will adopt the trend of becoming more ethical or not, it depends on the individual.

Journalism, advertising and public relations are all often criticized for being seemingly unethical at times. According to the Institute for Public Relations, “current research supports a historical trend of associating public relations with all things unethical – lying, spin-doctoring, and even espionage. Many critics argue that there can be no ethical public relations because the practice itself is akin to manipulation and propaganda.” Personally, in my future career with strategic communications, I want to help end the stereotype of PR being a field of untruthfulness by being as ethical as possible. Those who value the principle of strategic communications and care about their job are going to strive to be more ethical, not just pretend. To relate this thought to Virtue Ethics, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that people with good habits of character are going to naturally do what’s right. People who are morally mature are going to be deliberate in handling their ethical dilemmas. I believe those who take pride in their profession are going to adapt to the new ethical standards of PR.

The Public Relations Society of America makes a good point that “the practice of public relations can present unique and challenging ethical issues. At the same time, protecting integrity and the public trust are fundamental to the profession’s role and reputation.” PR professionals have to encounter the difficulty of balancing loyalty to a client and loyalty to the public. They must fulfill both of their desires and expectations while preforming ethical practices. The new PR ethics are about honesty, loyalty and fairness. The PR professional must not compromise these ethics to either the public or the client. Honesty is a very important part of the code of ethics that should not be avoided. From an article in the Houston Chronicle, it stresses how being honest is more important than trying to minimize a damaging incident because peers can criticize your organization once they find out the truth.

Adapting to PR ethics is going to take time, however. How to deal with ethical dilemmas can only truly be learned from experiencing them. So those who are ready to adopt to PR ethics may not have it under their belt in the beginnging and will tend to adopt the guise of acting ethical.



Ethical Guidance for Today’s Public Relations Practitioners from PRSA. (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2016, from

Bowen, S. (2007, October 30). Ethics and Public Relations | Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved March 27, 2016, from

Johnston, K. (n.d.). Ethical Issues Confronting Public Relations for Practitioners. Retrieved March 27, 2016, from




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