The ethics of codes: A depth approach

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Abstract

Public relations ethics places considerable importance on professional codes of conduct, as operated by national and international professional bodies, despite the fact that they are rarely deployed in a regulatory capacity. They therefore run the risk of being seen as aspirational and reputational rather than tools for generating ethical practices. This paper argues that existing approaches to PR ethics are tired and thin, with inadequate philosophical underpinning and a reliance on 'empty' Codes consisting of ethical edicts which practitioners have learned to ignore as transgressions go unpunished. But in a climate where governments and business are experiencing unprecedented loss of trust (Edelman, 2012), professional ethics are once more in the spotlight.The paper returns to the literature of professions, showing that the claim to ethical standards is one of the pillars of the claim to autonomy, implying that the failure to engage meaningfully with ethics threatens the 'professional project'. The role of codes of ethics in establishing professions is briefly explored, suggesting they share certain characteristics across professional groups, namely the claim to 'serve society' which some writers see as a founding myth of professions.Traditional and emerging approaches to public relations ethics are critiqued before the discussion of public relations codes of ethics. This notes the ubiquity of the Excellence approach as contrasted with the ethics of advocacy largely espoused by practitioners and some PR academics; the question of whether inadequate ethics do more harm than good to a profession is raised in this context.Finally, the paper argues for a depth approach to ethics, in which the person and the collective are encouraged to reflect on their ethical being, not just doing, shifting the focus from acts to agents. Unlike many recent debates on the subject, it argues that PR ethics does not begin and end with who you work for.
Original languageEnglish
Pages1-23
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventEuropean Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) Conference - Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 20 Sep 201222 Sep 2012

Conference

ConferenceEuropean Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) Conference
CountryTurkey
Period20/09/1222/09/12

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    Fawkes, J. (2012). The ethics of codes: A depth approach. 1-23. Abstract from European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) Conference, Turkey.