Sample Argumentative Essay on Strategic Communication in Relation to Ethics

Strategic Communication in Relation to Ethic

Strategic communication is an evolving phrase always applied to any planned communication campaigns. Even though models do differ, strategic communication for nonbusiness and businesses consistently employs research to recognize an issue or problem, pertinent publics, and quantifiable objectives and goals (Botan, 2010). Thus, most strategic communication plans espouse strategies, or steps, for handling issues with intended publics and uses numerous assessable procedures to execute the plans (Breit, 2007). Importantly, strategic communications are done under various labels like public relations. Nevertheless, there has been a long-standing debate about ethics in public relations. The issue has attracted various views, and many scholars and experts have argued their thoughts on this matter. Ethics is a sensitive subjective, and many people feel that it is appropriate to have a clear position on ethics in public relations (Curtin et al., 2001). The fundamental question that has been always asked, “Is there ethics in public relations?” First, ethics, which is also known as moral philosophy, encompasses defending, systematizing, and recommending notions of right or wrong behavior (Breit, 2007). Hence, ethics usually have a common aspect that needs systematic assessment, separating wrong from right, as well as establishing the nature of what to be valued. In the discipline of public relations, ethics can include ideals such as openness, loyalty, honesty, respect, integrity, mindedness, forthright communication etc. (Fitzpatrick, 2006). This definition regarding ethics in public relation goes beyond the traditional days of spinning certain persuasive messages, but all people do not entirely share this opinion (Curtin et al., 2001). In a viewpoint, I would state that there is still no ethics in public relations. The principal purpose of this paper is to discuss ethics in the public relations.

First, recent studies support the historical trend of correlating public relation to every wrong thing, espionage, and even spin doctoring. In this regard, it can be stated that there are no ethical public relations since the act itself is analogous to propaganda and manipulation (Botan, 2010). In fact, a disastrous knowledge among many policy makers, nonprofessionals, and journalists is the ideas that the phrase ‘ethics in public relation’ is an oxymoron: either smoke and mirrors or theoretical possibility that mainly hides deception (Parsons, 2016). Thus, this holds some sense, especially when ethics is described as the systematic way to establishing the correct thing to carry out and many public relations practitioners lack such a system. The philosophy of ‘I recognize it when I view it’ often rules and a more efficient and disciplined strategy on public relations ethics must be in place (Fitzpatrick, 2006).

Second, different groups such as Center for Public Integrity often disparage the public relations sector as one that lacks ethics. They have even cited the influence of public relations and lobbying as the cause of major threats to the candid journalism. Another example is the Corporate Watch that has interestingly decided not to render their criticism and just regard public relations as well as their professionals as one that intentionally lacks ethics. Ethics is an essential issue and must not be confused by any other matter in the sector (Messina, 2007). Thus, through consulting various resources, it can be revealed that ethics in public relation is unreality (Seow & Cheng, 2011). Moreover, there is a substantial body of pieces of evidence that show that contemporary public relations practices have enormous deleterious consequences on various aspects of the democratic process by providing vested interests the chance to intentionally deceive, obfuscate, as well as derail public deliberation on vital issues (Messina, 2007). It can be reported that public relations lower the society’s ability to respond efficiently to main environmental, political, and social challenges and such it lacks ethics in its practices.

Third, numerous reasons can also justify that public relations do not embrace values and some have described the actions of public relations firms as one that adds fuel to the fire. This is true since public relations firms have found themselves in various issues that range from fraudulent practice, accidental disclosure of information, deliberate misleading information, astroturfing, conflict of interest, to being economical in truth (Hickson, 2004). In this regard, it has been difficult to say that ethical behavior exists in public relations industry. Numerous case studies can be used to determine ethics in public relations, and this mainly entails the deliberately misleading information. One of the highly notable case study headlines involves “Citizens for the Free Kuwait” done by prominent public relations company Hill and Knowlton (Hickson, 2004). The firm created a false testimony that was delivered to the Congressional Human Rights body. Later news emerged that the Kuwaiti administration was the one responsible and even sponsored this firm to convince the United States of America to join the Gulf War that took place in 1992 (Hickson, 2004).From this case, it is evidence that Hill and Knowlton firm was prosperous in their public relations effort due to its disregard for ethics. In fact, during this controversy, one of the executives of Hill and Knowlton Company notoriously reminded their staff that they would even represent Satan if he pays. Thus, this case shows that public relations industry has no ethics and should do a lot more to earn honesty and moral values (Bowen, 2007).

In addition, apart from giving false information, lack of open communication, as well as other ethical challenges, public relations face a serious identity crisis. In fact, some have wondered if ethical public relation can be possible. Public relations must answer these questions to become ethical in their practice to win this ongoing debate (Bowen, 2007).

Despite the negative attributes that have been associated with public relations, many strides have been made towards making public relations becoming ethical. The industry holds a tainted history, and thus a lot should be done to fix the situation. Just as any developing industry, the public relations display a good progression towards attaining a self-aware as well as ethical ways of doing strategic communication (Bowen, 2008). By assessing the historical developments in this industry, the old negative reputation in the public relations and its ability for promoting unethical models of communications, it is now possible to spot some maturity in the industry. One can see an industry evolving from simple ways of disseminating information to one creating ethical models of strategic communication (Grunig et al., 2003). There exist a room for improvement, and the industry can become moral when series of issue that currently affects it can be adequately addressed. Issues such as integrity, honesty, personal virtue, moral independence, motivation, etc. should take center stage in the daily operations (Grunig et al., 2003).

Personally, my stance remains unchanged and that there is no ethics in public relations. It is vital to building a strategic communication paradigm to strengthen the ethical approaches to integrating the deontological philosophy in the field of public relations (Bowen, 2004). The deontological philosophy, which is grounded in the Immanuel Kant views, seeks to identify the fundamental ethics upon which every logical decision maker may make a similar choice (Bowen, 2004). Specifically, deontology deals with the study of duty and believes ethics largely acts with a sound motive. This would be a significant addition to the knowledge of the public relations since it would yield more defensible, rational, and ensure better decisions than the wrong approach adopted by many public relations (Fitzpatrick, 2001). To execute the deontological approach in public relations ethics, one should try to be unbiased, autonomous, as well as objective to bring trust in the whole industry. Moreover, potential decisions should be analyzed from every angle (Bowen, 2008).


The paper successfully discusses the thesis statement about ethics in the public relations. Available pieces of literature show that public relations have a history and a lot of work needs to be done to fix the mess.  Many people view public relations as a sector that has often pursued dishonesty in the information they give, deliberate misleading information, astroturfing, conflict of interest, and even one that is often economical with the truth. Nonetheless, public relations firms must engage in ideals such as openness, honesty, loyalty, respect, integrity, mindedness, as well as forthright communication to help address the tainted history. Ethics is a sensitive aspect that can only be attained through a systematic process of distinguishing right from wrong. The paper has also employed a case study to show that public relations have not been ethical in their actions. The false information created by Hill and Knowlton firm to deceive the United States America to enter the 1992 Gulf War is a suitable evidence of lack of ethics in the public relations. Nonetheless, there is room for improvement, and public relations firms can address matters of ethics.




Botan, C. H., & Hazleton, V. (Eds.). (2010). Public relations theory II. London: Routledge.

Bowen, S. A. (2004). Expansion of ethics as the tenth generic principle of public relations excellence: A Kantian theory and model for managing ethical issues. Journal of public relations research, vol. 16(1), p. 65-92.

Bowen, S. A. (2007). Ethics and public relations. Gainesville, FL: Institute for Public Relations.

Bowen, S. A. (2008). A state of neglect: Public relations as ‘corporate conscience’or ethics counsel. Journal of Public Relations Research, vol. 20(3), p. 271-296.

Breit, R. (2007). Professional Communication, Ethics and Accountability. Chapter 11 in Law & Ethics for Professional Communicators. Chatswood, NSW: LexisNexis Butterworths.

Curtin, P. A., & Boynton, L. A. (2001). Ethics in public relations: Theory and practice. Handbook of public relations, p. 411-422.

Fitzpatrick, K., & Bronstein, C. (Eds.). (2006). Ethics in public relations: Responsible advocacy. London: Sage.

Fitzpatrick, K., & Gauthier, C. (2001). Toward a professional responsibility theory of public relations ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, vol. 16(2-3), p. 193-212.

Grunig, J. E., & Dozier, D. M. (2003). Excellent public relations and effective organizations: A study of communication management in three countries. London: Routledge.

Hickson, K. (2004). Ethical issues in practising public relations in Asia. Journal of Communication Management, vol. 8(4), p. 345 – 353.

Messina, A. (2007). Public relations, the public interest and persuasion: an ethical approach. Journal of Communication Management, vol. 11(1), p. 29 – 51.

Parsons, P. J. (2016). Ethics in public relations: A guide to best practice.London: Kogan Page Publishers.

Seow, T.L. & Cheng, I.H. (2011). Characteristics and dimensions of ethical leadership in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, vol. 23(1), p. 46 – 74.