Ethical and Legal Issues in Public Relations Writing

by clarkstrategiccomm

Every public relations practitioner hopes that his messages will be received and accepted by the audience that he is trying to reach. Ethical and legal standards have been set to guide those within the public relations practice in a way that will keep professionals honest so that they remain accountable for information they release. In return, these professionals may win the public’s trust.

Ethics, which are not exercised punitively as law is, is the foundation of trust between PR and its audiences. Often, the public does not trust messages that include persuasive techniques, because it prefers cold, hard facts. Therefore, PR professionals must be cautious to not employ unethical techniques such as fallacies, which are used to intentionally misguide people. Ghostwriting, or writing something for someone else that will be presented from that person’s own point of view (this technique is often used by speechwriters for the President, who has little time to write his own speeches), has often fallen under heavy criticism as being unethical.

Finally, there is law. Everyone (professionals and public audiences) takes law seriously because those who do not are punishable. In the field of public relations, the following are prominent aspects of law: defamation, privacy, copyright and trademark. These protect the subject of a message from having his rights infringed upon.

— Zoe