As the field of Public Relations changes the demand for transparency from corporations grows. With the internet dominating the way in which this generation communicates, guidelines should be in place for correct, acceptable and ethical behavior online. Many people now get their news or information from personalized sites, whether that be blogs, news feeds from across the globe or traditional media outlets. This shift in the way in which Americans consume media and information has affected the PR and the business world completely different.
The goals or objectives for public relations and business are obviously different. From a business stand point, your return on profit is your bottom line and therefore the need for ethics and an ethical code is clear; on the other hand, a public relations practitioner deals with the relationship between a company and its publics. Ethics is apart of the PR practice. It should be ingrained in PR practitioners’ daily actions.
One inquiry that could be raised when considering ethics in media would be the differentiation between being “ethical” and censorship. This past week, a hip-hop artist, Soulja Boy, release a song via Twitter and his blog in which he insulted the United States Army. The song was release less than a week before the anniversary of 9/11. From an artists’ stand point, Soulja has the right to say what he wants, however I wonder what his PR people and record label had to say about this insensitive gesture. If this was a song he produced and recorded on his own time and with his own money, do the “suits” behind him at his record label have a right to interject? One could argue that if it is affecting his marketability or him as a brand than yes. Do celebrities and artists give up the right to free speech and expressing their political views once they sign on the dotted line? Or is that the price they pay for the fame and wealth?
Another great example of ethical behavior in the media is the pulling of a highly rated show, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, after the untimely suicide of one of the cast member’s husbands. The suicide is reportedly a direct result of the show and its portrayal of the man. After the incident, many news outlets and blogs were asking the question “will the show go on?” The premiere of the show was highly anticipated and was scheduled for a month or so after the tragedy. Needless to say, BRAVO is a corporation about the bottom line, and therefore the show goes on. This is such an ethical dilemma to someone like me, I now question if I should continue to watch the show. However, one should also consider the role Taylor, the actual housewife, who lost her husband, played in the decision to continue the show. She is now without a husband, and from the looks of season one, in debt with no source of income, barring the show. Therefore, I wonder, what would a newly-single mother accustomed to living a certain lifestyle do when faced with this hand of cards? Is she immoral or unethical for continuing to participate in a show that was ultimately the catalyst for her husband’s death?
There is no question that every specification in the world of media and communications should have an ethical code and guidelines by which to follow. The online world of blogs and the continuum of information available leaves the window of immorality and corruption wide open.