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Management of Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility Issues in Public Relations

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Management Of Ethics And Corporate Social Responsibility Issues In Public Relations

INTRODUCTION

At multiple points in their careers, public relations (PR) practitioners are likely to face decisions that are ethical in nature. Such decisions reflect a range of ethical dilemmas between, for example, truth vs. loyalty, justice vs. mercy, short-term vs. long-term consequences, and the individual vs. the collective (Kidder 1995, p. 18; Stacks & Wright 1989, pp. 53-67). Public relations practitioners, by nature of their position and job responsibilities, are often in a crossroad of a range of competing interests. Often, the tension may be between the practitioner’s own values and the culture of the organization. In other cases, it may be a conflict between the practitioner’s professional code of ethics and organizational norms and expectations. In yet other circumstances, they may be faced with competing interests between the organization and its various publics. At the very least, practitioners will frequently confront contradictions between business demands for economic performance and public expectations for ethical conduct.

Concerns over these competing responsibilities and the ethical dilemmas they produce for public relations are the subject of this essay. In it, a range of challenges faced by public relations practitioners related to issues of ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are explored. It is argued that CSR has, in many respects, altered the expectations and demands placed on the profession.

As a profession, public relations have a long and contested relationship with ethics and more recently with corporate social responsibility (McBride 1989, pp. 5-20). Nevertheless, public relations has been regarded as a young profession that lacks core principles to guide ethical, responsible practices that cut across organizational and cultural...

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