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Communication Ethics in a Connected World

Research in Public Relations and Organisational Communication

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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This book presents a selection of articles dedicated to the analysis of the situation and the evolution of public relations and organisational strategic communication, with a main focus on ethics and ethical issues.

Public relations, strategic communication and organisational communication always had an important and complex relation with ethics: the work on opinion and reputation puts communication professionals directly in touch with all sorts of ethical issues, and this reality is even more apparent today. A recent edition of the European Communication Monitor ( gives a clear sign of this situation: a majority of communication professionals in Europe have been confronted each year with one or more ethical challenges in their work, and these demands are increasing year on year. The international and intercultural nature of contemporary communication practice, together with the increase of social media, make the ethical dimension of communication more and more evident and demanding. Communicators, as we all are, live in an interconnected world in which “the other” and his or her vision is often closer to ourselves than ever before, which brings with it clear ethical implications. From a more philosophical point of view, one can cite St. Thomas Aquinas, who stated: “moral acts and human acts are the same” (idem sunt actus morales et actus humani). A moral dimension is inherent in all kinds of (voluntary) human acts and behaviours, including communication. This is always true, even if the awareness of this dimension can vary among practitioners, and ethical skills...

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