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Batchman 1 Daniel Batchman Doctor Carolyn Kim Journalism Research 14 May 2014 Public Relations Ethics for the Young Generation Abstract Public relations is a practice that requires a large amount of physical and psychological dedication from the practitioner. Whether in a firm, company, or nonprofit; whether in public affairs, investor relations, internal relations, or crises management; the practitioner has to make a series of decisions based on what he or she thinks is ethically beneficial for the company. The current generation has been raised with many different forms of instant gratification like social media platforms. The question proposed is do the young generation practitioners find themselves ethically challenged when entering their public relations practice. In other words, do the practitioners who were born from the 1990s to the early 2000s have solid ethics in the public relations industry? Literature Review The Definition of Public Relations Public Relations is defined in many ways. Ron Smith presents an interesting visual in his book Public Relations: The Basics where a bunch of blind men are each grabbing a different part of an elephant, each coming to a different conclusion of what the object they were touching was (3). The point of this visual is present that there are many different parts of public relations is a mix of different practices made into one profession


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and the profession itself can’t be defined by its many parts. The text Cutlip and Centers Effective Public Relations states that public relations is “the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends” (Sha, Broom, 5). In relation to Ron Smith’s visual of public relations, Cutlip and Centers Effective Public Relations elaborates on the different parts that make up the entire whole of public relations. The text states that marketing, publicity, advertising, press agentry, public affairs, lobbying, issues management, and investor relations are all part of the whole public relations practice (5-16). Sandra Oliver states in her book, Public Relations Strategy, that public relations can’t just be simply defined because of all of the concepts that embody the practice (1). She recognizes that what a Public Relations practitioner does is “influence organizational aims”, that his or her “decisions involve a major commitment of resources”, and decisions for the practitioner are long term, and relationship strategy is involved (3-4). The text Public Relations and Communication describes the public relations as being split into two sections, internal and external. According to the text, internal public relations is the management of the relationships between the management and its employees and external public relations is the relationships between the organization and its outside publics like “stock holders, dealers, customers, consumers, and jobbers” (Nayyar 55, 65). The AMA Handbook of Public Relations simply describes public relations as the “art of influence” especially when it comes to digital communication in todays society (9). Andy Green’s Creativity in Public Relations describes public relations as a creative


Batchman 3 process in communication between publics (36). In the end, there are multiple definitions, but all of them come to the same conclusion: public relations is process of communication between their client and their clients publics. The Definition of Ethics in the Public Relations Industry Because this study scrutinizes how college graduates can be ethically affected, the literature reviewed elaborates on how the public relations industry defines ethics as a whole. To begin, the Public Relations Society of America code of ethics states that their public relations members must reflect advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, and fairness (prsa.org). The International Association of Business Communicators, an organization dedicated to advancing communication professions, believes that communicators must support free speech, cultural values of others, refrain from undertaking, obey laws, give credit where credit is due, protect confidential information, not accept undisclosed gifts or payments, protect confidential information, not to guarantee unreachable results, and to be all around honest (iabc.com). Ethics in Public Relations: a Guide to the Best Practice shows how ethics isn't just about being a yes-man and having good manners. The author explains how competence was a very important value to the overall ethical makeup of a public relations practitioner. “...there are two main objectives to achieving competence... one is to protect the public...the second objective of ensuring competence is to secure the future of PR's image as an ethical persuit.” Protecting the public and securing the “PR image”, according to the author, can be done through these three steps: 1. to ensure that we have the skills necessary to do the work that we take


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on at any given time; 2. to ensure that we avoid giving employers or clients the impression that we can guarantee specific results; and 3. to keep our knowledge, skills and expertise current. The three steps are a simplified version of what could be done to avoid incompetence (Parsons 57, 58) Public Relations Ethics Observed in Society Though there are certain standards established by well renowned communication groups, ethics are referred to as guidelines and not necessarily the maker or breaker of a public relations practitioner. One of the founders of Public Relations, Edward Bernays, states in his text, Crystallizing Public Opinion, “The only difference between “propaganda” and “education”, really, is in the point of view.” (Berneys 200) In the biography, Father of Spin, Edward Bernays demonstrated this point of view in his public stunt, “torches for freedom” where he sought to further promote smoking by having women parade with cigarettes in the streets (Tye 29). An article in The Public Relations Journal volume five, ““Millennials’ Approaches to Ethical Decision Making: A Survey of Young Public Relations Agency Employees”, the writers observe the ethics of the millennial generation, people born in 1982 to the late 1990s, along with how they compared to their predecessor generations. What the writers concluded is that earlier generations observed the millennials as being selfish, ungovernable, and dependent on their bosses, while research showed that though millennials are dependent, but at the same time they “value ongoing education and mentoring” (Curtin, Gallicano, Matthews 15).


Batchman 5 Media Ethics: Issues, Cases, a text discussing ethically controversial issues in the media, shows certain examples of ethical decision making and why these decisions were made. An example of media ethical decision making portrayed in the text was the accepting of product samples in the Newsroom. The Weatherford Daily News accepted a variety of samples from an alcohol distributor, Grey Goose, in order to write a review on their products (Patterson, Wilkins 73). This is PR, a text discussing the realities when working in the public relations industry, the authors discusses what Propaganda and Persuasion Appeal strategies are used in this present century. According to the authors, some of the many strategies such as “Name Calling”, “Bandwagon”, “Emotional Stereotype”, and “Illicit Silence”, are “a variety of persuasion appeals… commonly used to mislead publics.” However, the authors continued stating, “Although, it encompasses some techniques that are used to mislead, the word propaganda should not be thought of as totally negative.” They then refer to Hadley Cantril, a social psychologist, and her five laws: “(1) events are most likely to affect opinion; (2) demands for action are a usual response; (3) self-interest must figure heavily if people are to become involved; (4) leadership is sought, and not always objectively and critically; and (5) reliability is difficult to assess.” In other words, certain looked down upon strategies are more of a scientific approach of how to change public opinion, which can be used ethically or unethically (Newsom, Turk, Kruckeberg 124126). The Millennial Generation The definition of the noun, Millennial, according to dictionary.com is “a person born in the 1980s or 1990s, especially in the U.S; a member of Generation Y”. The


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Oxford English Dictionary on its home website, oed.com, gathered quotes from authors where the term Millennial was established as a noun describing a rising generation. William Strauss and R.J. Matson, stated in their book, Generations: a History of Americas Future, 1584 to 2069, which was published in 1991, “First wave millennials are riding a powerful crest of protective concern” (335) alluding to a generation that was being recognized in the 1990s. The Chronicle of Higher Education recognizes in its article, “Millennials Are More ‘Generation Me’ Than ‘Generation We,’ Study Finds”, that Millenials tend to be more interested in “money, image, and fame” (Chau, 1). Respondents to the article had mixed reviews, many of them leaning towards disagreeing with the side Chau addresses in her article. One of them read, “I mildly disagree – the millennials in my classroom should not be characterized as the generation me. I would describe them as “generation egocentric” (Chronicle.com). This comment lightens the blow and provides an example of what many people truly think about the millennial generation. Chau refers to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, titled “Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others and Civic Orientation, 1966-2009”. The authors of this article, Jean Twenge, Keith Campbell, and Elise Freeman came to the conclusion that people born in recent generations are less concerned about others, more concerned about themselves saying, more recent generations evidence lower levels of community feeling as seen in less intrinsic and more extrinsic life goals, less concern for others, and lower civic engagement” (1060). They basically portray the millennial generation as a mostly selfish and caring only about themselves.


Batchman 7 Other surveys also reveal that the Millennials are described as a dependent generation looking to the help of their superior advisors instead of figuring issues out completely on their own (Curtin, Gallicano, Matthews, 13). Times Magazine went as far as to call the Millennials a “Me Me Me Generation” expressing that Millennials only care about their own well being (Jenkins, Stein, 1). What can be observed is that the Millennials seek the wisdom of their elders but they may be seeking their wisdom too often because making themselves feel better seems to be the normality. An article and discussion from Time Magazine and PBS take a more of a positive spin on observing the millennial generation’s ethical values in the United States. PBS recognizes in an interview titled “How the Values, Uphill Optimism of the Millennials Compare to Older Generations” that though the Millennial Generation is socially liberal, mostly choosing to not be affiliated with any religion, not getting married, and don’t have strong political views, they are still “upbeat about their own future” even during the United State’s current economic crisis (pbs.org). Time Magazine recognizes the negatives in Millennials, but also looks towards the positives explaining that the Millennial generation is very adaptable when it comes to technology and they also, as compared to PBS’s interview, are very optimistic (Sanburn, 1). They also feel obligated to get better jobs not necessarily due to the fact that they want to rich and famous, but mostly because of the current economic times (1). Ethics and Diversity Among Millennials As mentioned above, ethics for specifically Millennials is looked down upon by older generations because they are known to be dependent on their superiors and they’re more focused on what happens after work than what happens during work (Curtin,


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Gallacano, Matthews, 15). When we switch the point of view around, we can see that Millennials have their own story to tell about how ethical the public relations environment is in their work area. When it comes to racial and ethnic diversity, the millennial generation is the most ethnically diverse at this point in time. The article “Millennials Perceptions About Diversity in their PR Agencies” reports that Caucasian millennial practitioners reported feeling less strain then other race practitioners, which still shows that there is a racial issue in the public relations industry today (Gallicano, 41). The issue elaborated in the article is not that practitioners are being paid or treated professionally in the work place based on the color of their skin, but more that certain races are picked mostly because of racial iniquity in the work place (Gallicano , 41) Gender diversity is also observed among the millennial generation especially among young women today. Gallicano observed that women were mainly picked for their job based on their physical attributes more than their performance (44). Women also seemed to notice this issue more than men, which means that the gender issue goes on without being noticed or observed in the public relations industry (44). Women in the millennial generation also report to have lower salaries than those of men, though the salaries don’t differ as much as a generation ago (44). Ethics and Social Media Among Millenials The article, “Millennial Counselors and the Ethical Use of Facebook”, looks at why counseling students use social media and what they use it for. The authors observed that one possibility for the millenials using social media is because millenials, according to some case studies, tend to be very narcissistic (Brew, Cervantes, Shepard, 95).


Batchman 9 Narcissism was concluded as the reason due to the fact that millenials contain so much power in how they connect with friends, how technically savvy they were, an how much they could trust other institutions for holding their information (95). It was also observed that millenials use social networking primarily social interaction and entertainment more than as a motivational tool (McCorkindale, DiStaso, Sisco, 70). Millenials have also admitted to not having an authentic persona online when it comes to how people view their online profile, which makes their identities socially desirable, but not necessarily real (71). McCorkindale, DiStaso, and Sisco also observed a study on who millenials interacted with professionally on social networks and found that millenials tended to mostly interact with smaller organizations and nonprofits more than larger organizations. The scholar they observed also argued that millenials tended to use dialogue that would not have been appropriate in the use of the work place (71). Collecting Quantitative Data Because most of the research won’t be collected through interviews, emails, or any human interaction of any kind, quantitative research, instead of qualitative, will be my method for finding information. Choosing quantitative over qualitative was mostly due to time limiting amount of research. Also, quantitative allows for the opportunity to observe a larger sample size (Sale, Lohfeld, Brazil, 45). Quantitative analysis helps identify the more scientific aspects like numbers, groups, and statistics. Richard Tewkbury defines in his article, “Qualitative versus Qualitative Methods: Understanding Why Qualitative Methods are Superior for Criminology and Criminal Justice”, says that the main goal when using quantitative research is to find out what “concepts and


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variables mean” (39). The research will be specifically in books and other written material where other researchers have already found answers to certain aspects of the question, do young adults in the public relations field get ethically effected in the public relations field and how much. Some argue, however that it’s difficult to just do quantitative data or quantitative data alone. In the article, “Barriers to Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Data”, the author argues that people who are mixed method researchers, researchers that use both quantitative and qualitative data, simply choose to place their findings in either just qualitative or only quantitative even if they may have used both methods to obtain information (Bryman, 9). One could argue that the research done here observes not only numbers but also interviews done by other interviewers, which is in a sense observing qualitative data. However, the research done is still only through literature alone, therefore quality, if any, lacks very much in this research. The article, “Revisiting the QuantitativeQualitative Debate: Implications for Mixed Methods Research”, elaborates on two specific subjects that very much separate qualitative and quantitative research. The authors of the article argue that in quantitative research can’t influence the subjects of the research because everything is observed “within a value free framework” (Sale, Lohfeld, Brazil, 45). Since most of the research in this paper is done through literature only, there are no subjects that are influenced because all the information is permanently printed onto a page with no emotions or reactive functions. Qualitative-Quantitative Research Method Exploring the Interactive Continuum by Isadore Newman and Carolyn Benz describes the fact that quantitative research and


Batchman 11 qualitative research are relative ideas. The authors believe that qualitative and quantitative research is an issue of how information is measured in research (2). Furthermore, they recognize that in schools today, professors are either teaching their students to be focused on statistics or anthropology and this type of mindset, according to the authors, is “an ‘either-or” world, a dichotomous world, that no longer exists” (7). Their main argument is that researchers are supposed to, if not already forced to, perform quantitative and qualitative data on all of their research. Quantitative research, though it seems to be debated as coinciding with qualitative research, seems to be in and of itself and separate idea. Quantitative seems to be easily separated from qualitative research because one can identify what’s plainly statistical evaluation and what’s emotional evaluation. One can understand that going into the field and gaining information from human beings is different than gaining information from academic journals and textbooks. Quantitative research maybe the easiest way to evaluating comparing information that already exists and coming to a new innovated conclusion. Research Questions 1. Do public relations practitioners born in the millennial generation align their ethics with well-known Public Relations or Communications ethical standards? 2. What do public relations practitioners of the millennial generation lack ethically? 3. What do public relations practitioners of the millennial generations ethically thrive in? 4. Why is it important to consider the ethics of millennial practitioners and how can they be improved?


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Methodology Quantitative research was conducted in order to gather information from many different text and journal sources in order to come up with a substantial conclusion to what the ethics of young public relations practitioners were. What was first observed was the definition of public relations in its many different interpretations from many different sources, which helped establish an overall idea of field that required so much scrutiny in its ethics. The materials observed were books, academic journals, newspaper articles, and news magazines. Secondly, different forms of ethical standards by the Public Relations Society of America, the International Association of Business Communicators, and textual evidence to find out how they compare and contrast. Then, different academic journals and studies of the young generation of young public relations practitioners were observed to find out how young practitioners behaved ethically in their working field today. Thirdly, the study was separated into studying documents on the millennial generation, ethical issues that had to do with ethnicity and gender, and the observation of what other people, specifically older generations like the baby boomer generation, had to say about the millennial generation and their ethics in public relations. Lastly, different ethical issues were also observed pertaining to the millennial generation in order to gather examples of ethics in the public relations work place. The information found about the public relations practitioners and the ethical standards of PRSA, IABC, and text documents were integrated and certain conclusions were raised about millennial public relations practitioners.


Batchman 13 Conclusion It was observed that in this day in age, young public relations practitioners that were born from the late 1980s to the year 2000 follow most of what PRSA, IABC, and text documents believe to be ethical standards. The standards that millennial practitioners lack in “Independence” and “Expertise” in the PRSA’s ethical categories and “to keep our knowledge, skills and expertise current” from the text Ethics in Public Relations: A Guide to the Best Practice. This was observed because different sources indicate that employers and superiors believed that young practitioners seem to lean on them for advice and clarity instead of acting on their own behalf due to the practitioners living in the digital age where the answer is just at the touch of a button. The research also showed that young practitioners seemed to be judged by their superiors because of both their gender, especially for females, and their ethnical background. This could lead one to believe that though practitioners lack independence unlike their predecessors, their not necessarily useless and the opinion of their superiors may have been over dramatized. However, if young practitioners are heading towards total reliability on other things rather than creating a substantial knowledge base to create independent thoughts and ideas, then the public relations industry is heading towards a bitter end where originality becomes a rarity. One could reflect on this research and observe the different standards taught in schools and universities today and maybe infer that adjustments in certain ethical practices need to be adjusted in order for the future of public relations to remain a solid foundation for advocacy, relationship building, and communication.


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Works Cited "About IABC." IABC: Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators. International Association of Business Communicators, 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2014. Bernays, Edward L. Crystallizing Public Opinion. Brooklyn, NY: Ig Pub., 2011. Print. Brew, Leah, Joseph Cervantes, and David Shepard. "Millennial Counselors and the Ethical Use of Facebook." The Professional Councelor Journal 3.2 (2013): 93104. Web. Broom, Glen M., and Scott M. Cutlip. Cutlip & Center's Effective Public Relations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. Print. Chau, Joanna. "Millennials Are More ‘Generation Me’ Than ‘Generation We,’ Study Finds." Chronicle 15 Mar. 2012: n. pag. Print. "Code of Ethics." Prsa.org. Public Relations Society of America, 2014. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. Curtin, Patricia, Tiffany Gallicano, and Kelli Matthews. "Millennials' Approaches to Ethical Decision Making: A Survey of Young Public Relations Agency Employees." Journal of Public Relations 5 (2011): 1-22. Public Relations Society of America. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. <http://www.prsa. org/intelligence/PRJournal/ Vol5/ No2 /index.html# UxQQJbSz5Ng>. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. Dilenschneider, Robert L., and Maria Bartiromo. The AMA Handbook of Public Relations. New York, NY: AMACOM, American Management Association, 2010. Print.


Batchman 15 Gallicano, Tiffany. "Millennials Perceptions About Diversity in Their PR Agencies." Public Relations Journal 7.2 (2013): 37-70. Web. 6 Apr. 2014. Green, Andy. Creativity in Public Relations. London: Kogan Page, 2001. Print. McCorkindale, Tina, Marcia DiStaso, and Hillary Sisco. "How Millennials Are Engaging and Building Relationships with Organizations on Facebook." The Journal of Social Media and Society 1st ser. 2 (2013): n. pag. Web. 6 Apr. 2014. Nayyar, Deepak. Public Relations and Communication. Jaipur, India: ABD, 2006. Print. Newman, Isadore, and Carolyn R. Benz. Qualitative-quantitative Research Methodology: Exploring the Interactive Continuum. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1998. Print. Newsom, Doug, and Alan Scott. This Is PR: The Realities of Public Relations. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub., 1976. Print Oliver, Sandra. Public Relations Strategy. London: Kogan Page, 2001. Print. "Discover the Story of EnglishMore than 600,000 Words, over a Thousand Years." Home : Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2014. "How the Values, Uphill Optimism of the Millennials Compare to Older Generations." Interview by Judy Woodruff. Pbs.org. Public Broadcasting Service. Boston, Massachusetts, n.d. Television. Parsons, Patricia. Ethics in Public Relations: A Guide to Best Practice. London: Kogan Page, 2004. Print. Patterson, Philip, and Lee Wilkins. Media Ethics: Issues, Cases. Boston, MA: McGrawHill, 1998. Print.


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Sale, Joanna, Lynne Lohfeld, and Kevin Brazil. "Revisiting the Quantitative-Qualitative Debate: Implications for Mixed-Methods Research." (2002): n. pag. Web. 6 Apr. 2014. Sanburn, Josh. "Millenials: The Next Greatest Generation?" Times 9 May 2013: n. pag. Web. 10 May 2014. Smith, Ronald D. Public Relations: The Basics. New York: n.p., 2014. Print. Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069. New York: Morrow, 1991. Print. Twenge, Jean, Keith Campbell, and Elise Freeman. "Generational Differences in Young Adults' Life Goals, Concern for Others and Civic Orientation, 1966-2009." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2.5 (2012): 1045-062. Web. 10 May 2014. Tye, Larry. The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays & the Birth of Public Relations. New York: Crown, 1998. Print.

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This is a research paper on ethical priorities of millennials in the Public Relations Industry

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