Chapter Three describes the ethics of decision making. One of the most poignant and common skill a PR professional can provide is their ability to make quick decisions. As chapters one and two describe what PR professionals make decisions about and their evolution, chapter three describes the ethics of said decisions.
This chapter classifies all decision making in three different ways: absolute, existential, and situational. The chapter coins these terms as “belief systems, most of which are pulled from popular ideas of philosophers such as Kant, Mill, and Aristotle. Although they can apply to all decision making, it is important to consider these belief systems when working in a team in a Public Relations role.
The Absolute belief system describes a system where there is a “right” and “wrong” answer. This decision describes perhaps what we might consider the “TV-PR-Person,” meaning a character who makes decisions on the fly with the utmost confidence; a powerhouse. The absolutist makes an absolute choice.
The existentialist believes in a middle ground between decisions. Being a seemingly ineffective decision maker, the existential belief system coins a system where there are answers in what is practical and logical. Consequently, these decisions find themselves in the middle of the absolutists’ “right” and “wrong” values.
The situational belief system is the “nicest” way of making a decision. Situationalists believe that decisions should only do what is good and cause no harm. Though this belief system is nice, it is obvious that its approach to benefit the masses could potentially be dangerous for a client.
With these belief systems laid out, the chapter then describes a test for ethics in decision making which regards these four elements: truth, fairness, building connections, and benefit. All of these elements end up being a synthesis of the previously laid out belief systems, which is somewhat ironic because the philosopher’s those belief systems are based off of would definitely disagree with each other in said synthesis.
Despite the general “code of ethics” in professional decision making, the chapter describes that every PR organization has its own code of ethics for belief systems.
Chapter Twelve covers how law works in public relations. The chapter begins by warning that public relations professionals should be weary of the law in regards to their work. These warnings are then described to all be in relation to legal situations such as permissions and copy rights. More specifically, the chapter points out copyright law, trade mark, libel, and invasion of privacy.
Copyright law is the idea that when something is created, it can obtain a copyright. This copyright allows for said creation to only be recreated and redistributed by the original artist or creator. Therefore, public relations professionals should be weary of taking images created from others and using them in ads as they would be illegally redistributing them.
Trademark is a little different. Instead of a copyright that protects the redistribution of a certain material, trademark protects a companies brand. For example, certain sayings or logos that represent a company could potentially be a trademark.
Libel and invasion of privacy have to do with acts committed against copyright and trademark to a company, or more specifically the penalties public relations professional can commit. Libel is enacted when a false statement is made of against or for any organization. Invasion of privacy is a false act that can be committed when information that has been specifically guarded is released. This is usually enacted when the information comes from that of a high qualifying person such as a politician or official.