Chapter 3 Ethics and Professionalism

 Wilcox D.L. and Cameron, G. T. (2009). Public Relations Strategies and Tactics ninth edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


What is Ethics?

According to J.A. Jaksa and M.S. Pritchard from their book Methods of Analysis, “Ethics, is concerned with how we should live our lives. It focuses on questions about what is right or wrong, fair or unfair, caring or uncaring, good or bad, responsible or irresponsible, and the like.”


The three basic value orientations according to the book Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics are:


  1. Absolute: The absolutist believes that every decision is either “right” or “wrong,” regardless of the consequences. It is based on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant that the end cannot justify the means.
  2. Existential: The Existentialist, whose choices are not made in a prescribed value system, decides on the basis of immediate practical choice. This approach is somewhat grounded in Aristotle’s idea that individuals should seek balance, to midpoint, between two extremes. In other words, Aristotle would disagree with Kant by saying,” never say never.”
  3. Situational: the situationalist believes that each decision is based on what would cause the least harm or the most good. This often is called the utilitarian approach. This concept was advanced by John Stuart Mill, who believed the end could justify the means as long as the result benefited that greatest number of people.


There are also some professional codes of conduct. Three principals are essential:

  1. Professional communication is legal
  2. Professional communication is ethical
  3. Professional communication is in good taste

                                           -IABC Code of Ethics


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