Harm in Public Relations

Johanna Fawkes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter summarises the main positions of public relations ethics, characterising the field as profoundly divided between the organisation-centred functionalist approach of the ‘Excellence’ project and the more societally-aware rhetorical/ critical schools of writing. The former delineates best practice but has been interpreted as descriptive rather than normative; as if best practice tells the whole story. Unlike Excellence, rhetorical schools embrace advocacy and accept persuasion. Growing numbers of critical and cultural scholars have changed the focus from organisation to society. These positions are explored, particularly regarding their ethical stances and attitudes to a central problem for public relations: the role of persuasion in practice. This is symptomatic of a deeper problem: conflicted loyalties to employer - who pays the wages or fees - and society - which bestows the title of profession only on those who can be seen to contribute beyond an employment contract. Exploration of these problems leads inexorably to contemplation of the potential for harm in the practice and theory of public relations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCommunication and Media Ethics
EditorsPatrick Lee Plaisance
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9783110466034
ISBN (Print)9783110463736
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2018

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Communication Science
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
ISSN (Electronic)2199-627X


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