PRism Online PR Journal
Public relations helps an organisation and its publics adapt mutually to each other. However, this does not mean that the profession is value neutral or anything goes. There will be cases where professionals have to make discretionary ethical decisions and negotiate their roles and responsibilities, especially when faced with novel or difficult issues. In this conceptual paper, we describe how the notion of professional role morality not only shapes the individual struggles that practitioners endure but also highlights the organisational structures that foster or shun ethics in the decision-making process. Thus we provide a means of assessing professional action that balances the urge to become a hired gun who simply abdicates personal responsibility and completely adopts the employer’s moral viewpoint on the one hand, and moral torpedoes who rely exclusively on their personal views without any concern for wider implications on the other. Investigating role morality as played out in public relations is important because it may explain why practitioners often find themselves at odds with their best moral judgments. Here we present five fictionalised narratives to illustrate the conceptual issues and highlight the most significant moral distinctions that have practical consequences for both the theory and practice of public relations.