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Communication Ethics in a Connected World

Research in Public Relations and Organisational Communication

Edited By Andrea Catellani, Ansgar Zerfass and Ralph Tench

What are the main ethical challenges for strategic communication and public relations professionals today? How can researchers help in understanding and dealing with these challenges in a complex and interconnected world? This book offers some answers to these questions, based on contributions by researchers from different European countries and other continents. The chapters of the first section focus on general concepts about communication and public relations ethics as well as corporate social responsibility. Three sections then deal with: the specific situation of communication and PR ethics in various European countries; the evolution of ethical skills of communication professionals; and the interaction between communication ethics and the public sphere. The final two sections offer insights on recent research in public relations, like employee communication and engagement, mentoring in public relations and the evolution of media relations and social media communication.
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On the Borderlines of Advocacy. Situational Professional Ethics in the Identity Construction of Public Relations Consultants

Extract

On the Borderlines of Advocacy

Situational Professional Ethics in the Identity Construction of Public Relations Consultants

Elin HELGESSON & Christina GRANDIEN

Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden

This chapter explores if and how Swedish public relations consultants identify advocacy within their occupation. Professional ethics are used as a reference to highlight the contradictions between the role as an advocate and professional responsibilities and ethics. In this study we explore the contradictions that public relations consultants experience in developing a professional legitimacy that is compatible with societal expectations. We discuss how these contradictions can influence the identity construction of public relations consultants, professional legitimacy and the institutionalisation of public relations.

Introduction

The public relations industry is struggling with legitimacy problems, and in a study based on a nationwide Swedish survey, PR professionals are found at the bottom of the list of trustworthy occupations. The author of the study proposes that professionals engaged in advocating the interests of different organisations will evoke suspicion and distrust in the eye of the public (Larsson, 2007). Some scholars, however, argue that advocacy and influence are undeniable parts of the occupation (Berg, 2012; Bivins, 1987; Edgett, 2002; Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006; Heath, 2007) but representing special interests raises some controversy about professional ethics. The competitive market in which PR consultants work complicates the matter of ethics even more in terms of whether or not the professionals are more committed to upholding the ethical standards of...

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