According to Scott Cutlip and Allen Center, authors of Effective Public Relations, public relations is defined as, “the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and various publics on whom its success or failure depends.”
This would mean that as public relations professionals, our loyalty as professionals is to our employers, yet our obligation as individuals is to what is right. From an ethical standpoint, the obligation to both parties presents a dilemma, should they become mutually exclusive.
Although numerous codes of ethics highlight the importance of open communication and disclosure of information, the responsibilities of public relations professionals are not merely to communicate openly, but to communicate with sensitivity and consideration for the parties involved. Therefore, public relations does not necessarily constitute the availability of information, but rather the accessibility to it. This raises a few questions:
- Does the disclosure of information generate its availability, and does the availability of information warrant its accessibility?
- If so, when does the inaccessibility to available information cease to be unethical?
- Finally, in what context is that inaccessibility ethically acceptable?
Honesty is the policy, and honestly speaking, public relations is the difference between honesty and transparency.