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Public Relations and Ethics Tamika Banks Comm 3215 The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines

public relations as (Wilcox, 2012) "influencing behavior to achieve objectives through the effective management of relationships and communications." In other words, an advocate or practitioner helps to manage communications through organization with open and balanced goals. There are four classic models of Public Relations: Press agentry, public information, two-way asymmetric, and two-way symmetric. We will discuss these models, show examples, and discuss the history and ethics of each. Press Agentry was the earliest form of public relations. It is (Wilcox, 2012) "one-way communication," to inform the masses. "One-way" meaning that the information that was distributed was often times misleading to promote products, causes, and services. An example of this type of model practiced in history was a man named Phineas T. Barnum. P. T. Barnum was a man that liked to promote bad advertise events. He used language that excited the masses which worked for people that wanted to be entertained. It created a lot of (Wilcox, 2012) "hype" that was strictly used to draw people in. Press Agentry is still practiced in some arenas of promotion. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is famous for this model. They both use video and media promos of two fighters facing off, interviews with each opponent to create favoritism, and it builds up excitement for the upcoming bouts. It creates the need for the public to either attend the match or buy it through Pay-Per-View. Press Agentry can be successful revenue wise as well. More examples would include movies and television. The next Public Relations form or model is Public Information. Public Information is not necessarily based on propaganda or persuasive in nature, but a means to inform the public. Ivy

Lee is a person in history who practiced this type of Public Relations. He wanted PR to have (Wilcox, 2012); truthful, accurate information" distributed. He is regarded for many concepts still used to this day. Journalism mainly uses this type of model to relay news to the masses. The flow in this particular model is that of one-way communication, however, even in journalism there are ways to spin news to create sensationalism. A few examples of this are Fox News, CNN, and Nancy Grace. The third model is Two-way Asymmetric. It is geared toward a more scientific informative. This model does have two-way communication or a "feedback loop," but it is (unbalanced). Meaning it is used to persuade but does not include a large place for open dialogue. It is mainly used to help the person who is communicating rather than the audience. An advocate of this model is Edward Bernays. Considered the (Wilcox, 2012) "Father of Modern Public Relations," he highly regarded science to inform and persuade the masses. Today, the two-way asymmetric is used among the marketing and advertising fields. Commercials fall in this category such as a toothpaste commercial. There are statistics and dentists used to build credibility by saying "4 out of 5 dentists recommend this toothpaste and it is supported by the American Dental Association (ADA). One is supposed to be persuaded by the fact that the above approve of the product so in turn it is a good product. The final model in Public Relations is Two-way symmetric. This model is the most successful of the four due to (Wilcox, 2012) two-way communication with balanced effects. The feedback between the communicator and the masses is well-adjusted benefiting both sides. A pioneer of this model is Arthur W. Page; he was the vice president of AT&T, and he developed guidelines essential in the field of corporate communications. The main principles were: (Wilcox, 2012) tell the truth, actions speak louder than words, always listen to the

consumer, anticipate public reaction and eliminate practices that cause conflict, public relations is a management and policy-making function that impacts the entire company, and keep a sense of humor, exercise judgment, and keep a cool head in times of crisis. This model is the most common used to day in organizations across the globe. In the history of public relations, ethics was lost among the hustle and bustle of informing the public. It has been thought that public relations tactics have been around since time began. However, the concepts of PR date back to the ancient times of Julius Caesar. How public relations is handled does depend greatly on ethics. Ethics is defined as (Wilcox, 2012), the standards of conduct which indicates how one should behave based upon moral duties and virtues rising from principles of right and wrong. Not all public relation practitioners follow this particular standard. There are along with these principles is the awareness of values. According to the PRSA Member Code of Ethics (Hayes, 2013), Values include responsible advocacy; honesty; expertise; independence (objective and responsible counsel to clients); loyalty to clients There are issues with ethics in some of the earlier models that were discussed earlier. The Press Agentry model since it was based off propaganda and misleading information it goes against the basic standards of public relations code of conduct. Ethics in the Public Information model were improved compared to Press Agentry. However, since the audience is small in communicating to the masses, information can be spun in a different way to persuade audiences to think a certain way. Two-way Asymmetric does have more a response from the audience, but according to the PRSA the public interests should be considered. Twoway Asymmetric is geared towards persuading and how to persuade the audience. Finally, Twoway Symmetric is the model that has the most sense of balance when it comes to ethics. It follows the code of conduct the closest by telling the truth, not mislead, and the most ethical.

Ethics and Public Relations go hand in hand, its important to be ethical in all facets of communication as a whole.


Hayes, D; Hendrix, J., & Kumar, P. (2013) Public Relations Cases (9th ed). Wilcox, D. L., & Cameron, G. T. (2012). Public Relations Strategies and Tactics. (10 ed.). Glenview: Allyn & Bacon.