According to Johnsten and Zawawi (2004) on the public relations theory, they defined public relations as the principle and a strategic management functions which provides and to maintain mutually beneficial relationship of the company and the public in order to create a develop conditions and policy. In regards of this, public relations as a management functions in the company also has a big role and responsibility to assist the company in significant to achieve company’s main objectivity. On top of that, the role of the public relation practitioners can be also classify as the ethical heart in every organization. They seek to be able to communicate with all of the significant publicans, not just in the internal but also external, in the effort to handle the company problems and to preserve the positive image of the company in public.
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When we talk about the code of ethics of public relations, Patricia J. Parsons on her book has defined ethic as “The application of knowledge, understanding, and reasoning to questions of right and wrong behaviour in the professional practice of public relations” (2004). The concept of ethics itself is fundamentally important to be kept and practiced by all of the public relation practitioners in carrying out its duties on professional lives. Even said so, there are several code of ethics are having in every public relation organization which every member are expected to abide and need to be understood when they carry out their job as a PR practitioners. Thus, the main objective of these codes of ethics is to perform a guideline to educate their members, so that they can easily to conduct and present themselves in a better way when they do their job in the professional lives. Based on Patricia A. Curtin and Lois A. Boynton (2001), they defined the ethical thoughts into two concepts, teleological and deontological approaches. The teleological concept is basically more into doing actions and by double checking the outcomes, because in this concept it simply believes that the end justify the means. While the deontological approaches, is more into doing a good actions by following the proper rules. Thus, this can be say that the concept is always reminds the public relations practitioners that they should provide the best results for company and society by following up the proper ethics when it comes to solve the problem.
In these past few years, the ethical concept is become even more crucial and essential to be followed by the organizations and the companies to deal with the internal and external priorities. Basically, the code of ethics concept is always reminds by the nature of what should be valued and done by the public relation in their professional lives; which includes such as respects, public interest, openness, confidence and privacy, professional reputation, honesty, loyalty, credibility, and integrity towards the company and the society (Curtin and Boynton, 2001). In the professional lives, the public relation practitioners have a heavy task to share the truth and the actual facts to the society, without forgetting their main priorities to protect the company’s image. When it comes to the honesty, it would reminds us with the main ethical rule to be observed by public relations is that do not ever tell a lie to anyone. Basically, it comes very naturally to say that public relations in their professional practices have a tarnished historical reputation by using some of the unethical way, including manipulative, misleading, spin doctoring, and lying.
It comes to everyone’s mind that either the concept of “lying” can be identify as an ethical or unethical, moreover some of them may think either public relation practitioners should used the type of “white lie” to inform people? Are they a part of the ethics which should be followed by PR practitioners? We can not doubt that sometimes people may say lie to cover up mistakes and to protect the images of the company. But, we could not forget that the basic way of communication has taught us that communication is irreversible, which by means once we say something to people then we would not be able to un-say it in the future. However, we understood that the role of the public relation as the main foundation is to always protect the company, but also not to giving any harm or negative effect to society. This become a main reason of why PR practitioners should be able to find a good tactics in solving problems, by always keeping up the benefit conditions for both company and the society.
One example of the ethical actions of public relations practices can be seen from one of the issues existed around the year of 2007 in Malaysia. During that time, it was reported that the Malaysians Health of the Ministry Department has announced all of the fast food advertisements to be stopped and banned with the immediate effect; including all of the print and electronic media advertisements from the multinational fast food company such Mc Donald’s, Burger King, and KFC. The main reason of why the Malaysians Government was intended to banned all of the fast food advertisement was only to protect children and citizens; since the foods provided by the companies contains with the unhealthiest food, and it has caused the rising rates of the sicknesses in Malaysia, like obesity, diabetes, also hypertension among the people. Even though the issue was still under investigation and consideration, thus, it makes one of a fast food company in Malaysia, Mc Donald, feels aggrieved and unfortunate caused by the situation.
In the mean time, Mc Donald as one of the biggest multinational fast food company which also having a lot of branches in Malaysia, has given their comment in regarding of this problem. Based on the research provided about the case study, it was reported that the Managing Director of Mc Donald Company in Malaysia deplored the thoughts of the Malaysians Government who wanted to ban all of the fast food advertisement in Malaysia. Moreover, the Managing Director also stated that instead of banning all of the advertisement, the Health of Ministry Department should provide more information about the caloric and the nutritional content of the fast food to the Malaysians citizens. On top of that, Mc Donald also claimed that they are actively been promoting the healthy campaign by providing the new set of meals, such Grilled Mc Chicken and Soya Bean to maintain the healthy nutrition of the consumer. Moreover, the Managing Director also stated that in these past few days they would like to promote the new-brands of healthy food from Mc Donald, such as salad, fruit juices, and many more.
In relation to the ethical concept, in this case, can be say that the PR of Mc Donald company is very professional as they did the right thing to handle the case. Based on Patricia J. Parson theory, she describes the five values of the public relations ethical theory that need to be recognize; which are veracity (truth telling), non-maleficence (no harm doing), beneficence (doing good), confidentiality (respecting privacy), and fairness (social responsibility). By looking out from the ethical perspective, they are trying to handle this case in a professional way as following the code ethics of PR practitioners. Actually, it is a fact that the fast food company is providing us with unhealthy and sell it mostly with the oily food which cause obesity and some other dangerous disease. In the meantime, Mc Donald’s Managing Director as a PR did not denial the facts. Instead of that, they are trying to “cover up” the whole main issue to keep the image of the company, by gathering up the new facts that the company now has promoting the new sets of healthy menu for consumer, such the new set of Grilled Mc Chicken and Soya Bean.
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Another point that can be considered as a PR ethics is that, they are trying to respond the issue with caution and give a positive feedback to the Government by way willingly to attend meetings that have been on schedule by the Health of Ministry to discuss the whole issue. These steps can be says as preventive steps done by the PR practitioners of the company to avoid large losses without having to harm the other party. As a result of using these tactics, Mc Donald did not get much losses and still exists in Malaysia, as well as the consumer still enjoy with the foods provides by the Mc Donald.
When we talk about the longer term impacts of either ethical or unethical concept of public relations towards the stakeholder, society, and the public relations itself; it can be say that having a trustworthy especially from society can be the strongest long term impact for either company or for the PR professions. Moloney Kevin (2006) on his theory has argued that, there is a mutual beneficial relationship between the organisations (the stakeholders) and the individuals (the society). He also stated that, “The PR producer is involved with corporate ethics in another way as well.” So basically, there is an indirect link between the personal ethics to the moral and philosophical values when they carry out their job as a PR, to keep the professional balance between organisational and the society as well. In simply says, society indirectly provides a major influence on the corporate survival. When the company and PR practitioners gained the “real” trustworthy from the public, it would automatically help to give more profit to the company.
Thus, we can not doubt that to get trustworthiness from the society, public relation practitioners are required to understand the real concept of the PR ethics. As already mentioned above, public relation practitioners during their professional lives are having a bad historical reputation, such by always using spin doctoring. This tactic has caused a bad image of public relations because some people may assume that this profession is just a form to deceit people. From here, it can be seen that ethical theory is very important for PR to create a new standard of good image in front of the public.
As for conclusion of the essay, public relation is fundamentally important to establish the mutual beneficial relationship between the company and the society. In regards of this, public relations have a big role in business industries, to build a strong connection between organisation and the public. By seeing it from this perspective, we can say the ethical concepts are very important and still need to be followed by all of the public relations practitioners in every company, in order to obtain trustworthiness from society.
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