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Journal of Business Ethics Education

Volume 10, 2013

Kate Fitch
Pages 125-142
DOI: 10.5840/jbee2013107

Public Relations Student Perceptions of Ethics

Public relations is often perceived as unethical, yet professional associations and educators position the industry as an ethical profession. The aim of this paper is to investigate the perceptions of public relations students (N = 45) in a communication school in Australia towards ethics. Research involving a survey and a focus group found that students perceived public relations ethics depended on a negotiation between practitioners’ responsibilities to stakeholders and their client or employer organisation, and broader societal expectations. They perceived professional codes of ethics to be of limited value and the development of ethical understanding as incremental over the course of their studies. The findings suggest ethics should be scaffolded in public relations education, the social impact of public relations activity should be emphasised and the limitations of professional codes highlighted.

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