Posted by: Rajiv Harjai | March 7, 2007

Ethics in PR: PR practitioners are Ethical!!!

Today, everyone is so confused about ethics because of the commercial interests. Ethics can be best understood as the interplay between ethical values and interests. The lack of consideration of interests has similarly confused our understanding of ethics. The concern with ethics has been couched not in these terms but in terms of the contradiction between the democratic function in media and their control by commercial interests.


This discussion started with Martin Moore’s blog about the debate sponsored by PR Week that PR has a duty to tell the truth‘, over 260 public relations executives voted against the motion to only 124 voting for. The discussion about lying and ethics was picked by many blogs like up by Strumpette , BuzzMachine, India PR, Hill & Knowlton and StriveNotes.

In justification among things was that the journalists are to be blamed. I agree a bit to what the PR Week panel’s justification mentioned in Martin Moore’s Blog

This leads me to a lecture I attended yesterday, by Tony Harcup, Author of the book “The Ethical Journalist” who was talking about his book. It was nice to hear him say things like, What is happening to the News today? This is not journalism. Journalists these days have become “Churnalist,” They just Churn news.

I spoke to him about Journalist cases where they run sting operations(catch people on hidden camera’s and expose it to Indian publics) whether it is ethical or not? He quite clearly agreed with me and stated that if it is for the greater good of society to know, then yes, of course, but if it is for creating some Gossip news or doesn’t concern the society, then of course, not.

I think we in India have seen this distinction in the past, where the bribing of the defence ministry was shown to the public, but the face of the film actress prostitute was not shown (as it would have ruined her career).

As long as we take the ethical values and interests interplay into consideration, I think everyone would understand the Ethical issues more clearly.

And clearly if someone asks me the question “Are PR people supposed to Lie? or Do you Lie?” I would answer, “If you asking me that I am ethical? … Yes, I am an ethical practitioner, and PR practitioners are ethical.” And leave it there.



  1. I enjoyed your post. The post you reference from Hill & Knowlton was one of 11 posts over the past two weeks on ethics on my blog Client Service Insights (CSI). I actually bundled them in a single post today titled: A Bundle Of Ethics. The topic of ethics is a worthy one. Thanks for spreading the word!

  2. Thank you Leo, A Bundle of Ethics is really a nice collection of posts recently made on ethics on your blog. I would encourage everyone to check it out and try to give THE ETHICIST Quiz! designed by Rohan Cohen, The Ethicist, to see how confusing Ethical values and commercial interests can be.

  3. I just did the Ethicist Quiz, as you suggest. If the object of the exercise is to demonstrate that ethical behaviour is as individual as the person it succeeds. If it’s to demonstrate correct ethics, I think it fails. Thanks for bring it my attention.

  4. Your Welcome Sherrilynne, I got only 5 correct in the quiz, but giving the quiz you can see that being Ethical does not mean being morally right, there are other interests interplay, which makes you Ethically correct.

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