Here's the thing....

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..."-Jack Kerouac

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Utlitarianism v. Communitarianism (Blog #2)

According to the national Public Relations Society of America, the code of ethics was formed to meet three goals that they believed that needed to be provided to the members of the organization: to provide behavioral guidelines to its members; to educate management on public relations standards; and to distinguish public relations professionals from those individuals who use the title but are perceived as giving the profession a bad name. Several ethical frameworks exist in society today, with two being the lead front-runners for good PR practice, and on the opposite side of the spectrum, bad PR practice.
When a PR professional uses a utilitarian approach, it is completely ends-based. This theory is geared towards the conclusion of what will happen at the end of a campaign. Utilitarianism is a principle that holds that the right course of action in any situation is the one that produces the greatest balance of benefits over harms for everyone that is in the situation. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances were to get there; as long as the maximum benefit was reached, it honestly does not matter.
I honestly do not believe that any of the values that the PRSA code of ethics tries to instill into the professionals reflects the utilitarian approach. I believe it is the anti-approach for what they are trying to gear from: people who give the profession a bad name because they do anything to achieve a goal, no matter the cost. The code of ethics is to put into effect behavioral guidelines, and what professionals should model themselves after. This approach is just an example of how a PR professional shouldn’t act. The code of ethics, to me, demonstrates that a professional should try to reach the maximum benefit by following moral values and guidelines that should be learned through the study of public relations.
Communitarianism PR is all about the community, and the circumstances that bring the individuals of that community together. For example, if a PR professional was to gear a campaign towards a Hispanic market, that professional would ultimately have to take the community aspect into high regard. In the Hispanic market, the value of their community, and how it will benefit the social aspect as a whole, rather than an individual, is vital to whether the community will be receptive to campaigns.
The PRSA code begins with six values that the society believes are imperative to the profession. The first value is advocacy, which “serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for clients and provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas to aid informed public debate” (Gower, 14). This value almost directly mirrors the communitarian theory, except that for an organization, it is for a person. By serving the public interest acting as an advocate for clients, they are influencing the client on what is best for the community. This approach is best used for community-based markets, because that is the number one requirement for how to market to them.
The fifth value of the PRSA code, loyalty, also has a communitarian influence. The value states that the PR professional is loyal to their client, but continue to serve the public interest. Although somewhat a devil’s advocate, this value still has a resemblance towards communitarianism PR. By serving the public interest, while staying loyal to the client, the professional is working towards what the public wants, with a loyal viewpoint of what the client wants. The client, in essence, is unknowingly dictating what would best serve their interests in the community to the professional. The professional is doing exactly what a communitarian should do, according to Kathie Leeper. Leeper states that “a communitarian approach would suggest that what is best for the community is ultimately in the best interests of the organization (Gower, 10).”
These ethical theories have helped shape not only the code of ethics, but have shaped PR professionals as well.


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