TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is Public Relations?
Ethics of Public Relations and Information Management
Ethics in Public Relations
Ethics in Information Management
Importance of PR and Information Management to Organizations’
What is Public Relations?
Public Relations popularly known as (PR) can be defined as the practice of managing the distribution of information between an organization (such as a government agency, a business organisation or individual and the public. It may entail an individual or organization gaining access to their target audience using topics of interest to the public as well as new materials that do not require direct payment (Theaker, 2004). Public relations is based on the idea of creating reports or coverage for clients free of charge as opposed to advertising and marketing. The main aim behind public relations is informing the public, employees, prospective customers, partners, and investors among other stakeholders. Companies apply the same strategy to ensure stakeholders maintain a certain view about its activities, political decisions, products, and leadership. Public relations professionals work for businesses and companies, PR and marketing firms, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations among others (Fawkes, 2014). They create and maintain good relationships between their employers and their target audience, opinion leaders, and the media. Common roles include designing communications campaigns, working with the press, writing new releases, writing speeches for organization leaders, and managing company reputation.
Public Relations is no doubt a term that is widely misunderstood and misused to describe anything from selling to hosting, when in fact it is a very specific communication process.
Every company, organization, association and government body deals with groups of people affected by what that organization says or does.
They might be employees, customers, stock-holders, competitors, suppliers or just the general population of consumers. Each of these groups may be referred to as one of the organization’s publics. The process of public relations manages the organization’s relationships with these publics.
Importantly, government, companies and organization’s know they must consider the public impact for their actions and decisions because of the powerful effect of public opinion. This is especially true in times of crisis, emergency, or disaster. However, it is just as true for major policy decisions concerning charges in business management, pricing policies, labour negotiations, introduction of new products or changes in distribution methods. Each of these decisions affects different groups in different ways. In other words, efficient and effective administrators can use the power of these groups opinions to bring about positive changes.
It is crystal clear that, the purpose of everything labeled public relations is to influence public opinion towards building goodwill and a positive reputation for an organization or Nation. For example, PR efforts might be to rally public support, to obtain public understanding or neutrality and, simply to respond to inquiries. There is no gainsaying the fact that well-expected public relations is a long term activity that molds good relationships between an organs and its public.
Information management which is often refer to as (IM) involves collecting and managing information from one or more sources as well as its distribution to the target audience. It also entails the application of management techniques to ensure effective collection and communication of information (Cohen & Schwartz, 2013). The process enables managers in organizations to make informed decisions. Basically, they base their decisions on the information collected from different sources. Information management practices vary from one organization to another. However, as a minimum, it usually involves an organization acquiring information, storing it in its databases, and manipulation of the information to create new reports and data using application programs and communication of the resulting reports. There are various guiding principles to information management. For one, information assets are treated as organizational assets. This is a principle that must be acknowledged throughout the entire organization, failure to which the management may not receive the right level of support in relation to IM (Quigley, 2004). It is also imperative that information is made available or shared. People may not have access to some information depending on their position. However, the logic is that sharing information ensures its full exploitation. Ultimately, all information must be managed and maintained corporately (Schultz, 2007).
In a simple way, information Management could be described as the collection and management of information from one or more sources and the distribution of that information to one or more audiences. This sometimes involves those who have a stake in, or a right to the information. Management means the organization of and control over the structure, processing and delivery of information.
However, information as we all know today, includes both electronic and physical information. The organizational structure must be capable of managing this information throughout the information lifecycle regardless of source or format (data, paper documents), audio, social business, video, etc) for delivery through multiple channels that may include cell phones and web interfaces.
Therefore, the focus of information management is the ability of organization’s to capture, manage, preserve, store and deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.
Ethics of Public Relations and Information Management
Ethics deals with what is right and wrong. The study of ethics enables one to make sense of rightness or wrongness of things. It is also concerned with how people ought to live their lives. Professional ethics has gained popularity among companies and organizations in the recent past (Costa & Morais, 2011). Generally, organizations are embracing ethics to improve their reputation in the market. The core principle is acting in a manner that will contribute to greatest happiness to both the client and the community at large as opposed to serving the interests of those in power. Public relations officers and information managers must always consider ethical principles when making decisions or taking actions. Fundamentally, they must avoid engaging in selfish acts that can hurt their clients or the community (Brennan & Johnson, 2015).
Ethics in Public Relations
The main goal behind public relations is gaining credibility. Credibility starts with sticking to the truth at all times. As such, public relations must also be based on doing the right thing or telling the truth (Fawkes, 2014). Many individuals associate PR with clever strategies used by companies or individuals to convince the public that an act or something is right when in real sense, it is wrong. Some consider public relation professionals as manipulators (Theaker, 2004). Usually, they are of the view that PR officers only seek to manipulate the public into believing in what they believe in or selling. Such a perception makes it hard for people to believe information provided by PR professionals. It is upon these professionals to convince their clients and the public that they are communicating the truth and nothing else but the truth (DiStaso & Bortree, 2014).
Common unethical practices in PR include withholding some information from the public or biased approach. Many organizations have been accused of engaging in similar practices when trying to improve their reputation (Ceylan, 2008). For example, PR professionals in an organization can decide to withhold information that can have a negative effect on its reputation, for example, illegal accounting practices. The aim is to create an impression that the company ensures ethics when in real sense, that is not the case. Fitzpatrick and Bronstein (2012) argue that PR professionals must at all cost avoid such tendencies. Withholding incriminating information is very unethical and only proves that an organization or individual is not being sincere. As a result, the organization may not even realize its PR goals and objectives. Essentially, it earns a bad reputation once the information that has been withheld becomes public knowledge. It is normally best for a company to come clean on its own as opposed to information leaking to the public through other sources (Ceylan, 2008).
PR professionals are expected to maintain impartiality at all times. Any biased approach makes it hard for it to achieve public relations goals. A biased approach can entail a company trying to use PR to impress shareholders at the expense of customers (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2012). In most cases, this is done to distort reality. Any form of discrimination leads to ethical problems. An organization can easily earn a bad name for being biased. Commonly, biased behaviors leave one group at a disadvantage. According to the utilitarianism theory of ethics, an act is only considered ethical if it brings greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Individuals are advised against being driven by their self-interests. PR professionals must adhere to the provisions of the theory to avoid discriminatory approaches (Ceylan, 2008).
Research has also shown that there are organizations and individuals who spread rumours or propaganda in the name of PR. This is one of the main reasons as to why some people always suspect the real motives behind public relations. Specifically, one can make unsubstantiated claims just to gain publicity. This is common among politicians and organizations interested in attracting more customers (DiStaso & Bortree, 2014). Essentially, the public does not benefit in any way from the propaganda. As discussed earlier, PR seeks to inform. On the contrary, propaganda only serves the interest of the perpetrator. There are times when people are made into believing the propaganda (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2012). As such, they make uninformed decisions that may be costly or have a negative impact on their wellbeing. It is normally advisable for one to seek clarification on the knowledge provided through PR before acting on it. Equally, PR professionals must always ensure they prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. Principally, they must also provide evidence on their claims (Fawkes, 2014).
Ethical issues also arise in relation to the topics or the nature of clients’ PR agencies should take. For example, it is widely accepted that tobacco and alcohol are harmful to one’s health. The question that arises is whether PR agencies ought to work with such industries. Such industries are arguably unethical, hence trying to convince the public to maintain a positive view can also be considered unethical. This also leads to the issue of whether agencies should disclose their clients or who they are working for. Some chose to conceal the identity of their client especially if they are not trusted by the public. This is also unethical (Fawkes, 2014). Largely, the public expects PR professionals to disclose who they are working for. Nevertheless, there are also times when it is necessary to conceal the identity of the client, for example, for security reasons. A client may have nothing to hide; however, disclosing their identity may place them in danger or a compromising situation. In such a case, the decision to conceal their identity is called for (Parsons, 2008).
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- Felix Babatunde Ale (Author), 2016, Ethics, values and relevance of public relations and information management, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/345559