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Ethics are one of the biggest concerns for almost all organizations in any field, and public relations are no exception. In Chapter 6 of Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations”, he talks about how the field of public relations is all about having credibility, and earning credibility begins with telling the truth. In order to gain credibility, a company has to base their mindset around doing the right thing; ethics is at the heart of this idea. But what exactly is ethics? There are countless ethical theories, and everyone has their own definitions of what it means. On page 106, Sietel notes, “While the meaning of ethics may be hard to pin down, there’s no secret to what constitutes unethical behavior. Unfortunately, it’s all around us.”  This is exactly why ethics is so important. Everyone has their own idea of what ethics means to them, and how you define it may not be the most important thing. Ethics isn’t as much about knowing what to do, it’s about knowing what not to do.

Chapter 6 lays out five ethical theories that each offers a unique perspective.

  •  Utilitarian Ethics- implies considering the “greater good”, rather than what’s best for the individual.
  •  Aristotelian Ethics- how an individual should best live.
  •  Kant’s Categorical Imperative – says that a person is acting morally if his/hers actions are as if they are establishing a universal law that would govern all others in similar circumstances.
  •  Mill’s Principle of Utility – “seeking the greatest happiness for the greatest number”
  •  Judeo-Christian Ethics – the golden rule; “loving your neighbors as yourself”. Treat others, as you would want to be treated.

“Because the practice of public relations is misunderstood by so many—even including some of those for whom public relations people work—public relations people, in particular, must be ethical” (Sietel, p. 107). This quote in Chapter 6 really made me realize how important ethics is in the public relations field. People working in the public relations field must ALWAYS tell the truth, but they don’t always have to tell everything.