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Ethics in Public Relations

Ethics in Public Relations

A Guide to Best Practice

Patricia J Parsons

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Practice across the public relations spectrum in an ethical and socially responsible manner with this fully updated guide packed with useful tools and insights.

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About the book

Ethical practice in any professional discipline is guided by age-old philosophical perspectives, but its modern parameters are continually evolving. Ongoing developments in technology, social media and social contexts mean that public relations and its practices are constantly changing, and so do the ethical questions faced by practitioners in the field.

Ethical questions and dilemmas are inherent to public relations, and ensuring that practitioners operate ethically is fundamental to the professionalism and credibility of the field. Engaging and accessible, Ethics in Public Relations offers a lively exploration of the key ethical concerns present in the public relations world today by way of practical tips and guidance to support those in PR and corporate communications.

Written by a leading academic in the field, this fully updated third edition of Ethics in Public Relations includes an entirely new chapter on the uses of ethics in social media, covering topical issues such as blogger engagement and the relationship between employee social media activity and organizational reputation.

Table Of Contents

  • Section - PART 1: What Lies Beneath
    • Chapter - 01: Before we begin: New profession... or one of the oldest?
    • Chapter - 02: Lies, truth and honesty: their role in PR practice
    • Chapter - 03: Truth, trust and the virtue of being ‘good’.
    • Chapter - 04: Whose rights are right?
    • Chapter - 05: The trouble with rules
    • Chapter - 06: Utilitarianism: Right acts and wrong reasons
  • Section - PART 2: Ethics and the Practitioner
    • Chapter - 07: Your moral development: Cultivating respect and humility
    • Chapter - 08: Codes of ethics: The good, the bad and the (almost) ugly
    • Chapter - 09: Conflicts of Interest: Sex and other relationship issues
    • Chapter - 10: (Very) personal ethical decisions: Whistle-blowing and moonlighting
  • Section - PART 3: Strategies and Dilemmas
    • Chapter - 11: Public Relations ethics and traditional media
    • Chapter - 12: Public Relations ethics and social media
    • Chapter - 13: Persuasion propaganda and advocacy: The ethics of influence
    • Chapter - 14: Supporting ‘good causes’: bad ethics or bad taste?
    • Chapter - 15: Deceptive authorship: Ghost-writing and plagiarism
  • Section - Part 4: Organizations, Ethics and PR
    • Chapter - 16: Making decisions: The true reality of everyday ethics
    • Chapter - 17: PR and the corporate ethics programme
    • Chapter - 18: The future of ethical PR: education and leadership
    • Chapter - 19: Appendix 1: For your bookshelf
    • Chapter - 20: Appendix 2: Chartered Institute of PR Code of Conduct
    • Chapter - 21: Appendix 3: Guidelines for the ethics audit


This book offers students and practitioners of public relations a lively and engaging conversation around everyday ethics. Patricia Parsons challenges us to reflect on our hidden assumptions and darker motives when issuing misleading news releases, concealing sources or even using the office copier for personal stuff. There should be a copy by every PR water cooler.
Johanna Fawkes, Senior Lecturer in Public Relations, Charles Sturt University, Australia. Author of Public Relations Ethics and Professionalism: the Shadow of Excellence (Routledge, 2014)

Too often, the PR industry finds itself jammed between those who see ethics as irrelevant and those who view it as a branch of moral philosophy. Many of our colleagues hear 'ethics' and turn off altogether. 'Ethics in Public Relations' provides a pragmatic antidote to this malaise. Rooted in reality and pointing to professionalism, it reminds us of our societal responsibility. It's readable, digestible and provocative. Whether you consider yourself to be a student, a scholar or neither, I contend that you ought to be both. As such, this book challenges you head on. 'Do unto others as you would have them do to you' isn't a platitude, it's our raison d'être. Read, learn, implement and enjoy!
Jason MacKenzie, Found. Chart. PR Chartered Marketer FCIPR FCIM; Managing Director, Liquid; 2017 President, Chartered Institute of Public Relations

Rooted in reality and pointing to professionalism, Ethics in Public Relations reminds us of our societal responsibility. It is readable, digestible and provocative.
Jason MacKenzie, Managing Director, Liquid

Praise for previous edition:

Should be a required textbook for any student or practitioner of public relations. Highly recommended.


Book Details

  • EAN: 9780749477264
  • Edition: 3
  • Published: 3rd April 2016
  • Paperback
  • Format: 234x156
  • 192 pages
  • Series: PR in Practice Series

About the Author

Patricia J Parsons APR, FCPRS spent 26 years as a faculty member and former chairman in the Department of Communication Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Canada retiring recently as a full Professor. Her research, writing and teaching focused on public relations ethics and strategy, and healthcare communication. She is the author of a dozen books and numerous papers for the professional and lay press. She is accredited in public relations and is a member of the Canadian Public Relations Society's College of Fellows. Prof. Parsons lives in Toronto and can be reached via email at [email protected] or via Twitter @ethicsinpr.

Patricia J Parsons