Ethics is one of those topics that crops up again and again in public relations. As PR professionals it is our job to be the conscience and remember that public relations relies on trust in order to build and maintain valuable relationships. And trust depends on honesty and transparency.
However, public relations is often associated with negative emotions of that of spin and propaganda. So is it any wonder that ethical issues regularly arise and we have to take a step back to think about what we are being asked to do or if the decision we make could cause harm to others? Then there is the difficult position of having to choose which ethical route to take… where does it end?
Morality refers to the things that need to be done in order to feel ful-filled and live well as a human being. Depending on the moral view that one adopts it can be easy to make a decision or choose an action. However, sometimes morality can be difficult and cause the individual to feel ashamed or unsatisfied so understanding which ethical route is best for the individual is essential in ensuring one is living as morally and as happily as possible.
Four types of ethics
Aristotle’s Nicomachean ethics are based on building one’s character through virtue. This type of ethic focuses on the nature of the human being and an individual’s motivations; it is generally categorized as virtue ethics.
Non-cognitive ethics focuses on the individual’s variable personal feelings rather than reasoning. An ethical approach can be decided on based on the individual’s feelings in the moment, what they perceive to be right at the time.
Deontology is an ethic that considers rules and that rules aren’t to be broken regardless of the consequences. Deontologists believe that they have a duty as a human being to base their decisions of universal principles and values.
Utilitarianism centers around the idea of doing the ‘greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people.’ This type of ethic means that the actions must be judged by the potential effects or consequences it can have. The right action is the one that results in the biggest benefit.
Ultimately good ethics means good business but can we ever be completely ethical in all we do?