Ethics in private and public relationships

Ethics in private and public relationships

Public Relations

  • Public relations is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the public.
  • Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. This differentiates it from advertising as a form of marketing communications.
  • The aim of public relations is to inform the public, prospective customers, investors, partners, employees and other stakeholders and ultimately persuade them to maintain a certain view about the organization, its leadership, products, or political decisions.
  • It includes designing communications campaigns, writing news releases and other content for news, working with the press, arranging interviews for company spokespeople, website and social media content etc.
  • Public Relations has now become a vital function affecting management decisions and influencing public opinion in every public or private organisation. Today, it is indispensable for any organisation. The reasons for it being so are as follows:
  1. Advance in telecommunication and transport.
  2. Opening up of traditionally closed societies and increasing globalisation.
  3. Recognition of right of expression and freedom of information.
  4. Governments employing Public Relation practice for staying in power, for development task, etc.
  5. Growth in business, amalgamations, collaborations, operating with subsidiaries, spreading across national boundaries and in different cultures.

Ethics in Public Relations

  • Public Relations recognize a long-term responsibility and seek to persuade and to achieve mutual understanding by securing the willing acceptance of attitudes and ideas. It can succeed only when the basic policy is ethical, and the means used as truthful. In Public Relations, the ends can never justify the use of false, harmful or questionable means.
  • However, it is a difficult task to describe what is ethical and what is unethical. It would be simpler to state it as a matter of choosing between the right and wrong options in keeping with conscience. Anything that causes dissonance in the mind brings about a feeling of guilt and dishonesty. And dishonest communication cannot be an aid to cementing relationships. Public are also not to be underestimated as fools. As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘you can fool some people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.’
  • There are a number of acts that could be classified as unethical, ranging from suppressing of news to misleading the audience. Unethical act in public relations may include:
  1. Suppressing unfavourable news
  2. Misrepresenting facts
  3. Postponing to serve a cause but actually serving some other interest
  4. Promising results that cannot be obtained
  5. Use of undesirable method towards pressurising editors for carrying publicity material
  • With increasing education, the consumers and public have became aware of their rights and a public Relations person may have to deal with pressure groups like trade unions, consumer protection groups, environment protection activities, etc. Therefore, it is imperative for a public Relations practitioner to be serf regulating, ethical as also be careful about the legal aspects of communication.

Values in Public Relationships

  • The importance of articulating ethics and the values that define and underpin the public service, cannot be underscored. This is seen as critical to providing both public officials and the public with a common frame of reference regarding the principles and standards to be applied and in assisting public officials to develop an appreciation of the ethical issues involved in effective and efficient public service delivery.
  • An example of the importance attached to the above-mentioned ethical principles is found in the “Seven Principles of Public Life” by the Nolan Committee in the United Kingdom. (this can be applied to other public relationship)

Nolan’s Seven Principles of Public Life:

Ethics in Public Administration

  • The notion of ethics has expanded itself to involve all major realms of human existence. Here, an attempt is made to outline certain salient aspects of ethics in public administration. Broadly, they could be summarized as following maxims:
  1. Maxim of Legality and Rationality: An administrator will follow the law and rules that are framed to govern and guide various categories of policies and decisions.
  2. Maxim of Responsibility and Accountability: An administrator would not hesitate to accept responsibility for his decision and actions. He would hold himself morally responsible for his actions and for the use of his discretion while making decisions. Moreover, he would be willing to be held accountable to higher authorities of governance and even to the people who are the ultimate beneficiaries of his decisions and actions.
  3. Maxim of Work Commitment: An administrator would be committed to his duties and perform his work with involvement, intelligence and dexterity. As Swami Vivekananda observed: “Every duty is holy and devotion to duty is the highest form of worship.”  This would also entail a respect for time, punctuality and fulfillment of promises made. Work is considered not as a burden but as an opportunity to serve and constructively contribute to society.
  4. Maxim of Excellence: An administrator would ensure the highest standards of quality in administrative decisions and actions and would not compromise with standards because of convenience or complacency. In a competitive international environment, an administrative system should faithfully adhere to the requisites of Total Quality Management.
  5. Maxim of Fusion: An administrator would rationally bring about a fusion of individual, organisational and social goals to help evolve unison of ideals and imbibe in his behavior a commitment to such a fusion. In situation of conflicting goals, a concern for ethics should govern the choices made.
  6. Maxim of Responsiveness and Resilience: An administrator would respond effectively to the demands and challenges from the external as well as internal environment. He would adapt to environmental transformation and yet sustain the ethical norms of conduct. In situations of deviation from the prescribed ethical norms, the administrative system would show resilience and bounce back into the accepted ethical mould at the earliest opportunity.
  7. Maxim of Utilitarianism: While making and implementing policies and decisions, an administrator will ensure that these lead to the greatest good (happiness, benefits) of the greatest number.
  8. Maxim of Compassion: An administrator, without violating the prescribed laws and rules, would demonstrate compassion for the poor, the disabled and the weak while using his discretion in making decisions. At least, he would not grant any benefits to the stronger section of society only because they are strong and would not deny the due consideration to the weak, despite their weakness.
  9. Maxim of National Interest: Though universalistic in orientation and liberal in outlook, a civil servant, while performing his duties, would keep in view the impact of his action on his nation’s strength and prestige. The Japanese, the Koreans, the Germans and the Chinese citizens (including civil servants), while performing their official roles, have at the back of their mind a concern and respect for their nation. This automatically raises the level of service rendered and the products delivered.
  10. Maxim of justice: Those responsible for formulation and execution of policies and decisions of governance would ensure that respect is shown to the principles of equality, equity, fairness, impartiality and objectivity and no special favours are doled out on the criteria of status, position, power,  gender, class, caste or wealth.
  11. Maxim of Transparency: An administrator will make decisions and implement them in a transparent manner so that those affected by the decisions and those who wish to evaluate their rationale, will be able to understand the reasons behind such decisions and the sources of information on which these decisions were made.
  12. Maxim of Integrity: An administrator would undertake an administrative action on the basis of honesty and not use his power, position and discretion to serve his personal interest and the illegitimate interests of other individuals or groups.

Ethics in Private Relationships

  • (Refer to previous chapters)

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