Ministers or panderers: Issues raised by the public relations society code of standards

Journal of Mass Media Ethics 1 (1):43 – 49 (1985)
Abstract
A review of the PRSA Code of Professional Standards reveals that despite the messianic strains of its originators, the code has become in part a public relations device to allow claims of adherence to virtue and in part a matter of constraining free competition. The author maintains that to date the code has not even helped the public relations of public relations. ?Responsibility to the public?; remains undefinable, but trust in individual ethical judgment becomes problematic when there is no common sense of what such responsibility entails. An effective public relations code must include not only pious sentiments, but painful penalties. What is needed are more ?'public relations watchers,?; monitoring the publicity and communication channels and blowing whistles when necessary. News media and trade journals should expose and bring shame to bear on unscrupulous PR practitioners, the essay concludes. In addition, two deeper types of changes are suggested. First, clear distinctions must be made between what is public and what is private information, so the tendency to deceive will be decreased. Second, PR people should return to a different understanding of the word ?truth?; than is common in contemporary culture, and rely upon objective truth and honest service rather than pandering to public opinion
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