Below is a code that I have written and created regarding my own set of communications, media and journalistic ethics standards.
Personal Code of Ethics
Carrying a personal code of ethics that one adheres to is influential in a myriad of aspects of life. However, when communicating as a career, particularly in pursuing public relations and/or strategic communications, cultivating such a code of ethics is indispensable. When considering media and communication ethics for public relations and strategic communications practitioners, a set of guiding principles can and should be followed to regulate such professionals and practitioners, as well as to ethically influence decisions being made that effect clients and public/s. Those in this profession should be expected to respect and follow their code of ethics by maintaining, remaining current on, practicing and improving upon ethical decision-making skills, to serve one’s clients and the public/s simultaneously and fairly, and, most importantly, to trust in the code of ethics and any actions resulting from said code.
Code of Ethics
- Truth & Accuracy;
- Truth and accuracy, including honesty and fairness, to clients, public/s and in any dealings with competitors, must be upheld. Thus, ethical standards are protected by avoiding dishonesty, falsities, fabrications, and purposeful deception.
- It is vital that the line between newscasting, that is, events considered journalistically newsworthy, and between promotion, that is, advertising for one’s client, must be made distinct and avoided. Question whether information is news or simply promotion. In this way, ethics are upheld by ensuring that both the client and the public/s are simultaneously being best served: by providing both with valid and worthy news.
- Social Role as Service;
- The primary objective in this field is to serve the client and the public/s. Practicing in this area of media is not to merely update public/s on current events, it is to help, to teach, to inform, through delivery of information that best serves the client and the public/s. So, ethics are maintained by dedicating oneself to serving clients and public/s, not any other actors that may or may not benefit from any dissemination of information.
- Consideration of Consequence;
- In materials for public relations and/or strategic communications projects, all outcomes must be considered. This includes examining personal, professional, public, legal, social, and all other components that may be impacted in any way, especially if it is harmful, damaging or hurtful. Thus, the ethics code is sustained by accounting for all outcomes and ensuring that no one is damaged, hurt or harmed knowingly.
- Information & Power;
- The relationship between the control of information and the influence of power over its dispersal must be recognized and considered. Professionals should not adhere to the demands of positions of power concerning what and how information is given to clients and/or public/s. So, an ethical ground is cultivated by certifying that any and all information being disseminated is not being controlled or manipulated.
- Accountability & Responsibility;
- One must be accountable and responsible to both clients and to publics. Any of one’s actions in a communications position for, surrounding, or affecting a client or public is to be owned, accounted for, and made understandable and explicit to any questions. Thus, answering to one’s actions, as well as clarifying one’s actions, so as not to mislead a client or public/s helps to enforce the ethical standards of media professionals.
- By serving both a client and public/s through information, one is obligated to advocate for, or, be a promoter, proponent and supporter of, one’s client and the public/s. In this way, ethics are upheld by ensuring that one’s work and/or service, as well as interactions, are intended in good faith, to serve and assist the client and the public/s.
- Loyalty, namely, trustworthiness and reliability, to one’s clients and public/s, is consequential in a professional relationship. Practitioners should not improperly communicate with, give information to, or professionally share with, competitors of clients. Thus, an ethical ground is maintained by ensuring that there is no betrayal or deception of relations in the professional sphere of the lives of all actors involved.
- Reason-Based Decision-Making;
- Ethical and/or moral decisions regarding work and/or projects for clients and public/s must be made based on facts, potential outcomes, client and public/s history, motives and/or potential motives of all actors and, most importantly, based on principle. Thus, an ethical ground is maintained by certifying that all decisions made when considering a question of ethics are considered to the greatest extent in the most logical and empirical fashion, while still taking into account human aspects of such decisions.
Philosophical Consideration of Ethics
A philosophical examination of how this code of ethics was constructed is helpful in understanding and, in turn, following such ethical guidelines. Now, the news, media, publication and information landscape is fast-paced and ever-changing. Such changes make some ethics standards outdated or irrelevant, thus, it is necessary when considering and deciding upon ethical questions to be flexible, but remain firm.
Essentially, in ethically questionable scenarios, an application combining aspects of deontology and teleology is beneficial. To determine deontological absolutes and approaches, a teleological determination should be used. For instance, if harm is the outcome, it is absolutely unethical. Additionally, speaking deontologically, one should always consider consequences and outcomes, that is, think teleologically about absolutes. Make these determinations based on truth, responsibility and a consideration of which actor will be least harmed. It is important when making such determinations not to allow power or powerful actors to influence decisions regarding ethics or morality in the control of information.
Additionally, in ethical questions regarding media, a composite of utilitarianism and relativism is equally helpful. As follows, the landscape of what is or is not ethical is changing, and to combat this, strategic communications and public relations professionals should decide relatively, that is, subjective to the current media landscape and societal and/or cultural norms, who will be harmed least, vis-à-vis the application of a utilitarian perspective. Thus, to ensure that, in a world with strong relativistic determinants, there is an underlying solution to solve ethical problems in an overarching way: always consider, dependent upon each circumstance, who will be harmed least.
For public relations and/or strategic communications professionals, following the above code of ethics and the prescribed decision-making tools will result in the most possibly complete ethics standards. By using one’s knowledge and experience in media, and the above guidelines, professionals in communications can answer questions of ethics, find solutions for client variances or discord, and help to establish a universal code of ethics in the strategic communications and public relations field that applies logic and reason, principle and humanness and uses tools for making decisions now and in the future.