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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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Public Relations. Levinas’ Call for Ethics and Justice


Public Relations

Levinas’ Call for Ethics and Justice

Ronald C. ARNETT

Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA1

This chapter links public relations ethics to the perspective of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. It is divided into three parts. The first part frames points of significance in public relations ethics scholarship that point in the direction of Levinas’ thinking. The author discusses the book by Johanna Fawkes, Public Relations Ethics and Professionalism: The Shadow of Excellence. In the second part, the discussion about the contribution of Johanna Fawkes and some additional scholarship in public relations ethics underlines three major “coordinates” for an ethical approach to public relations: acknowledge imperfection, acknowledge partisanship based on rational and non-rational impulses, and acknowledge the limits of provinciality. The last part of the chapter presents some major aspects of Levinas’ philosophical perspective on ethics and justice and links Levinas’ ideas with the everyday decision-making of public relations professionals.

…the publication of corporate codes and reports can also achieve a kind of displacement of responsibility from the corporation – rendered secure by its stated ideals – onto its employees, who must now bear the burdens of being both profitable and principled. External criticism can now be countered by references to corporate codes and reports, and transgression localized in inadequate individual performance. Arguably the decisive measure of the ethics of narcissus is that, for all the display of corporate goodness, operational practices remain untouched (Roberts, 2003: 257).

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