Public Relations, Ethics In

As a subdiscipline, public relations (PR) ethics focuses on questions of moral rights and wrongs as they relate to PR professionals and scholars. As such, PR ethics necessarily stretches across disciplines. On the one hand, scholars focus on the practice and theory of PR. This includes an understanding of the day-to-day activities of professionals working in various sectors (e.g., agency, corporate, nonprofit, government) and the major theories that inform our understanding of that practice (e.g., excellence theory, contingency theory, relationship theory).

On the other hand, PR ethicists are grounded in philosophy, typically employing theories of Western ethics in their studies. Perhaps the most widely utilized approaches are the Enlightenment ethics of utilitarianism—most notably championed by John Stuart Mill—and Immanuel Kant’s deontological approach. While Enlightenment ethics arguably ...

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