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Each of the three different theoretical approaches proposed for public relation ethics has admirers and detractors as well. All the three theories require practical ways of incorporating them into public relation campaign, using the suggested pyramids (Barney & Black 1994:233-244). Virtue ethics involves fostering a strong internal moral compass to guide anyone in choosing the right action. It requires one to first develop ethical judgment by stimulating the moral imagination in order to recognize ethical issues.
This can only be achieved in a campaign through ethics brainstorming sessions or ethical reflection time, and this is where individuals considered ethical implications and report back to the team or through discussion with an independent ethics consultant, who could then highlight potential ethical issues in the upcoming campaign and stimulate debate on appropriate approaches.
This approach allows other virtue tests that accord with their values and enables them to set relevant virtue objectives to be revisited and tested at the end of the campaign.
Virtue ethics becomes a formative step in public relations process, rather than a reactive process once a problem arise. However, it is flexible, by the fact that in the middle segment pyramid, each of the facts used can be assessed in the campaign using a virtue approach tactics. Virtue ethics clearly has benefits for practitioners who are seeking ethical guidance but many times it is be inadequate alone. For example tests using external virtue referents like a ‘significant other’, are ‘at odds with the idea of developing virtues by purchasing the internal goals of a practice’ (Baker & Martinson 2001: 148-275)
Deontology involves following a prescribed set of duties or obligations for example, religious rules such as ‘Thou shall not lie’, and one of its common deontological positions in public relations is advocacy, and this is the belief that provides practitioners specific behaviors that are ethical against an agreed standard like a professional ethics code at the same time, they can easily promote clients self-interests above all other interests when compared to virtue ethics and consequatialisim; in addition deontological approaches are also useful in the campaigns communication phase and this enables them to assess ethics of messages and communication outputs when compared to virtue ethics, as well as consequantialism.
Their approaches are useful because they clarify the limits of reasonable behavior by providing absolute prohibitions, and directives for specific acts, however at times, although occasional their inflexibility can be problematic (Baker 1997: pp. 197-210). Lastly but not least, consequantialism uses the approach of judging actions by their customers. One of the well-known techniques of consequentialism is ulitarianism; where an assessment is made of who has been affected, and determines in what ways, and consequently the right action that is supposed to be taken which creates maximum total benefit. Their main method of determining the outcome involves drawing a flow chart or a mind map which is cumbersome.
Their only closest related test is the benefit or harm assessment, in which calculation is made about whether the benefits to stakeholders outweigh the harm (Baker 2002: 191-205). The approach is clearly a very crucial component of public relations, but on its own at many times it obscures the means used to obtain a desired outcome, for instance, a pure consequantialist can endorse a lie if it ultimately resulted in more happiness or a more wide-spread benefit than truth-telling (Barney & Black 1994:244-248). Conclusion The two approaches; virtues ethics and consequentialism to public relations have benefits but they have serious limitations. One can only manage these limitations by using deontological approaches, because it has a high persuasive power with respect to public relation practitioners.
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