The need for professionals to understand both law and ethics cannot be understated. Law is an indicator of belief systems, values and norms. Ethical factors for Public Relations combine the significance of law wielded together with ethics and other important components in an effort to address not only liabilities but also moral dilemmas in a profession (Wilcox &, Cameron, 2012).
Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is an aspect of Public Relations in organizations, are overlapping concepts, in so far as professionalism goes, are increasingly being debated upon and have attracted arguments in academic discourse in recent times. The significance of Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility in organizations and the relationship that they portend for organizational structure, corporate culture, public image and management cannot be overlooked.
This is especially because they are seen as important tenets that function to bring justice in organizations and therefore positive public outlook and professional practice (Price, 2007). Becker (2009) notes that the search for justice and broadened organizational performance in the work place in line with business and professional ethics are closely tied to public relations aligned significantly to corporate social responsibility.
Regardless of these needs, philosophers, other scholars and thinkers alike, have not authoritatively arrived at a consensus about what ethical standards entail. Thus drawing a distinction between ‘the right thing’ and ‘the wrong thing’’ for professionals at the work place remains, at best an uphill task and not a straightforward matter (Golan, 2008). Public Relations experts on the other hand, have tried to study the dynamics that these issues depict, with a view to bringing about organizational justice. This is more anchored on the fact that today, managers have been accused of overstepping their mandate, and unethical behavioral patterns have been cited in both managers and their juniors (Becker, 2009).
Further, today, Corporate Social Responsibility as an aspect of public relations and professionalism. Becker (2009) observes that being taken seriously by many organizations, especially because of globalization, competition and therefore a deliberate attempt to please and play meaningful roles in the lives of communities by organizations is the norm rather than the exception, requires sound relations for a professional.
In this quest, professionals have executed concerted efforts in demonstrating and attempting to respond to both ethical and legal standards, and also by virtue of paying attention and incorporating values that ensure an enhanced welfare of communities and the society at large to promote their public image (Wilcox &, Cameron, 2012).
Primary Responsibility of Business Organizations, and the Relationship between Ethics and Public Relations aspect like Corporate Social Responsibilities to Professionalism Practice
The responsibility that a business play in the society in which it is carried out has been subject to various kinds of debate. While it is reckoned that the primary responsibility of any business enterprises is to maximize the profits for the shareholders, others feel that a business should go far beyond just profit maximization to embrace issues such corporate social responsibilities to enhance public relations and image.
Zain (2008) gives a comparison of the divergent views of Milton Friedman and Archie Carroll concerning the responsibility of business in a society. According to Zain (2008), ‘’a firm’s primary responsibility is to maximize shareholder revenue and should overcome all hindrances in the environment to do so’’ (Zain 2008). This calls for not mistreating the employees of an organization even if the primary aim should be shareholder profit maximization.
Provided the firms operate within the regulations that are provided for by the pre-defined legislation, and having taken into account the interest of the shareholders, all the other supposed roles should automatically be fulfilled. Zain (2008) reckons that the government has the role of providing certain regulations in relation to the business activities to be undertaken as well as the mode of operations, and this is where the law comes in public relations endeavors.
The other set of responsibility that Zain (2008) considers fundamental in the operations of a business enterprise is ethical responsibility. She believes there should be some set of moral standards from which the management of an organization should draw its governing principles. In an attempt to maximize the profits of the shareholders, the employees of the organization may be forced to work extra hours.
Ethical considerations will see employees, in professional practice, receiving remuneration that is proportional to the amount of extra work done. Business management and professional practice need to employ ethics in ensuring the employees work under conducive environment. They need to have that sense of humane in handling the employees (Zain, 2008). Finally, the last set of a firm’s responsibility according to Carroll include carrying out other activities within or outside the firm, but under the firm’s directives, that has the main aim of improving the lives of the members of the society (Zain, 2008).
Business Ethics and Law in Organizations
In a normal social setting, ethics refers to the acceptable code of conduct upon which the behavior of an individual can be evaluated as acceptable or not acceptable, or as either right or wrong. However, Becker (2009) reckons that the means of setting up a universally acceptable code of conduct has had controversies with different philosophers coming up with various theories and plethora of literature in attempting to develop the standards (Becker, 2009).
Business ethics, therefore, is a branch of ethics that attempts to harmonize the conflicting issues concerning the acceptable behaviors in a business environment. It is basically concerned with examining the various activities involved at different levels or channels of production and determines if they are morally or ethically upright or not, in areas of public relations. In a business setting, ethics will be applied in determining the rights and privileges of the employees, their roles in ensuring business confidentiality, the roles of the top management in keeping business privacy, determination of labor prices and the prices of the commodities/ products that the organization deals in, as well as sales promotion through advertisement and enhancing professionalism and public relations.
It will also enable the management to curb vices like harassment at work, biased recruitment, and selection of new employees, poor price evaluation, as well as establishing poor marketing strategies. It helps the professional practice in various conflict resolutions (Becker, 2009).
A business that hopes to survive in the current and future local and global market need not to rely only on some forms of government legislation, ethical considerations and professionalism to promote public relations. It needs to ensure high level of universal morality in its entire leadership and professionalism.
Becker, K 2009, Moral Leadership in Business, New York, Sage.
Golan, P 2005, Employee relations, London, Emerald Group Publishing.
Price, A. 2007, Human Resource Management in a Business Context, London, Thompson Learning.
Wilcox, D, Cameron,T 2012, Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, 10th Edition, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, N.J.
Zain, M 2008, Social Responsibility in Business: Friedman and Carroll’s Differing Views on Business Responsibility, New York: Sengage.