Saints and sinners: competing identities in public relations ethics

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Public relations ethics is confused and often superficial in its approach, relying heavily on traditional theory, with only occasional reference to more recent developments in professional ethics, particularly feminist and global ethical perspectives.This paper argues that the central ethical tension facing public relations as a field lies in its divided ethical identity, in particular between the idealized codes of conduct influenced by the US-based excellence project, which conjure images of wise counsel balancing duties to client and society, and practitioner-led expectations that they are advocates and should privilege clients over society. The paper touches on the wider context of professional ethics in the early 21st century from western and non-western perspectives, in order to frame current debates in public relations' ethics. Taking a Jungian approach, it suggests that the saint/sinner models represent opposing aspects of an ethical identity or archetype which can only be resolved through self-acceptance and a willingness to embrace contradiction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)865-872
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Relations Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012

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