I am currently teaching a course to our Masters-level students called Public Relations Ethics & Law, a course that has been part of my teaching load for the past several years. It is a required course, a situation that is not common to graduate degrees in communication fields, or many other fields for that matter. The students range from several who recently completed their undergraduate degrees in PR, to the majority who have multiple years of practice under their belts. Many have not studied ethics at the undergraduate level – the situation for all of those who graduated more than ten years ago. So, why are we forcing them to take such a course?
In my view, there are few fields that are as rife with ethical dilemmas as industries involved in public communication. And this situation is even more fraught in recent years with the adoption of social media, a situation from which there is no retreat.
These graduate students are all preparing for one of two paths: some plan to take on further leadership roles in public relations and other public communication functions in practice; the remainder plan on teaching either at the college level with their Masters-level degrees, or the university level after pursuing doctorates. Either way, they all have future roles to play in influencing the direction of ethics in PR. So why am I telling you this?
First, I’d like you to think carefully about the notion that PR professionals purport to be taking on the role of organization conscience without any actual background in ethics, a situation that should frighten you. I know it frightens me. Second, you’ll be sampling their thoughts over the next few weeks as they appear here as guest bloggers.
One of their assignments is to produce a piece that considers ethical issues for my blog readers. I hope that you’ll surf back over the next while to read their pieces.