Public relations ethics in the 21st century: A state-of-the-field review

Michaela Jackson, Ella Chorazy, Marianne D. Sison, Deborah Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To conduct a systematic review of public relations ethics (PRE) research and scholarship in the 21st century and suggest future research directions. The study is prompted by macro-level phenomena that have impacted societies since the beginning of the 21st century—notably globalisation 4.0 and the fourth industrial revolution. Design/methodology/approach: A systematic review was used to search academic literature. Articles discussing PRE in nine leading English-language public relations and business ethics journals between 2000 and 2019 were reviewed. A code-frame facilitated data extraction and subsequent quantitative analysis; qualitative analysis identified key themes. Findings: The review identified 288 articles, with discussions involving PRE increasing over time. Most works approached the topic generally, rather than from a specific sub-disciplinary perspective, and drew from professional settings. Works were dominated by authors from North American institutions and North American samples. Research became increasingly empirical and intra-disciplinary and discussion about ethics was broadly categorised as part of public relations practice or from the perspective of the “academy”. Overall, the field can be described as of notable size, maturing, yet unbalanced in some regards. Originality/value: The review helps to identify whether PRE research reflects major changes in the 21st century and augments the sparse recent reviews of PRE research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-314
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Communication Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 02 Aug 2022


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