Social Responsibility and Loyalty in Public Relations Codes

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Background: It is believed that social responsibility, the value that is strongly involved in the contemporary corporate behaviour, has also become the core value for public relations practitioners and their associations. However, there are ethical doubts concerning the question to whom a PR practitioner is actually responsible (or loyal) in the first place: to the client, the employer, the public, or society in general?

Objectives: This research aims to describe how social responsibility is articulated in the documents that can be considered as the crown of public relations ethics – the codes of ethics – and additionally, how the value of loyalty corresponds to the value of social responsibility.

Methods/Approach: The research is based on the content analyses of 13 codes of ethics that are delivered by 18 public relations associations at the international and the national level in the USA and the European Union.

Results: Although the phrase “social responsibility” is not mentioned in codes directly, the value of social responsibility is present in very diverse ways. When the value of loyalty came into the correlation with social responsibility, the research has shown that these values exist as a separate principle.

Conclusions: The public relations are a profession that tends to be socially responsible and tends to show that loyalty to clients and organizations is subordinated to public and social responsibility. Thus, the codes show that contemporary public relations, at least at the normative level, approach the two-way symmetric model and mostly promote “idealistic social role” of public relations.

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