Origin and structure of the volume

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3 Introduction This book presents a selection of articles dedicated to the analysis of the situation and the evolution of public relations and organisational strategic communication, with a main focus on ethics and ethical issues. Public relations, strategic communication and organisational communication always had an important and complex relation with ethics: the work on opinion and reputation puts communication professionals directly in touch with all sorts of ethical issues, and this reality is even more apparent today. A recent edition of the European Communication Monitor (www.communicationmonitor.eu) gives a clear sign of this situation: a majority of communication professionals in Europe have been confronted each year with one or more ethical challenges in their work, and these demands are increasing year on year. The international and intercultural nature of contemporary communication practice, together with the increase of social media, make the ethical dimension of communication more and more evident and demanding. Communicators, as we all are, live in an interconnected world in which the other and his or her vision is often closer to ourselves than ever before, which brings with it clear ethical implications. From a more philosophical point of view, one can cite St. Thomas Aquinas, who stated: moral acts and human acts are the same (idem sunt actus morales et actus humani). A moral dimension is inherent in all kinds of (voluntary) human acts and behaviours, including communication. This is always true, even if the awareness of this dimension can vary among practitioners, and ethical skills and competencies are present albeit to different degrees. Since the beginning of the 20 th century, many different professional associations around the world have proposed deontological principles, codes and charts: this development of ethical guidelines is a very positive fact, and an important part of the professionalization of communication managers and public relation specialists. On the other hand, the European Communication Monitor 2012 mentioned above underlines the fact that only a minority of practitioners in Europe refers to professional codes of ethics to solve moral problems today. Also, a strong minority of professionals thinks existing codes are out-dated, even if nearly everybody agrees that communication professions need codes, preferably provided by professional associations. This situation means that a lot of work is still to be done to update codes and rules on the one hand, and to improve the ethical awareness and skills of professionals on the other. 11

4 Communication Ethics in a Connected World Public relations and communication researchers are needed to develop basic and applied knowledge, both from a descriptive-analytic and from a normative point of view. The reputation of communication professionals has been continually under scrutiny and is frequently exposed to heavy criticism. Paradoxically, the reputation of the professionals in charge of companies reputation is at stake. At the same time, researchers have contributed to the criticism or legitimisation of professional communication with different arguments ranging from philosophers like Jürgen Habermas who described public relations as an engineering of consent (recuperating the famous expression of Edward L. Bernays) and a danger for the public sphere, to James E. Grunig who suggests that strategic communication can be symmetrical and Robert L. Heath who argues it can help to foster good in society. Concepts like dialogue, symmetry and transparency included in those theories are challenged from normative and empirical perspectives in recent research and many new perspectives are emerging. This book presents mainfold insights into this complex and evolving research field, leaving the floor to young and senior researchers from different countries. Origin and structure of the volume This book is based on a selection of double-blind peer reviewed papers that were presented at the annual congress of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA), held on the 11 th -13 th October 2014 in Brussels, Belgium. The local organiser of the congress was the LASCO laboratory, which is a Belgian research group on public relations and organisational communication that puts together researchers and professors of Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) and IHECS institute (Brussels). The main congress theme was Communication Ethics in a Connected World. The 20 chapters presented in this volume are a diverse and quality selection and representation of the themes and discussion areas addressed during the congress. A number of other papers presented at the congress were proposed for publication in a special issue of the Journal of Communication Management. The book is arranged into six parts. The first section includes more general chapters, which propose conceptual insights on communication ethics and its relation with corporate social responsibility (CSR). The first chapter, Responsible advocacy? Reflections on the history, system, and codes of public relations ethics, with comments on education and research, presents basic concepts and historical aspects of public communication (i.e. communication in the public sphere) and public relations ethics. The ethical norm of truth is also discussed, and some 12

5 Introduction basic challenges for public relations ethics in research and education are outlined. The second chapter, Public relations: Levinas call for ethics and justice, is a reflection on public relations ethics from the point of view of Emmanuel Levinas philosophy. The author discusses some main contributions in the field, and in particular a recent book by Johanna Fawkes, and identifies some major coordinates for an ethical approach to public relations. The article shows also applications of Levinas philosophy to everyday decision-making. The third chapter, Putting the R back in CSR communication. Towards an ethical framework of responsibility, proposes a conceptual analysis from an ethical point of view of the term responsibility, seen as the key concept of corporate social responsibility. The result is a theoretical frame that is also applied to a concrete example of CSR communication. The second section of the book offers an interesting tour of national situations concerning communication and public relations ethics and CSR communication, based on rigorous qualitative and quantitative empirical analysis. The fourth chapter, Ethical engagement of public relations practitioners in a connected world. Results of an empirical study in Austria, presents a quantitative survey among Austrian communication professionals about their perceptions and knowledge regarding ethical principles and codes. The following chapter, Ethical practices and role perception of bloggers. An analysis of literary bloggers in Spain, deals with the relationships between public relations professionals working in the publishing industry and literary bloggers. The authors apply a Delphi methodology to explore the status, behaviours and perceptions of those bloggers from an ethical point of view. The sixth chapter, A decade into sustainability reporting in Turkey, presents an analysis of 18 sustainability reports of Turkish corporations, aimed at identifying the most commonly used items among those proposed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Results are an illustration of the actual situation of CSR reporting in Turkey. The following chapter, Ethics statements of public relations agencies in Turkey: How do Turkish PR agencies present themselves on the web?, keeps the attention on Turkey. The authors analyse ethics statements proposed on the web sites of 25 Turkish public relations agencies, in order to identify the most prevalent categories. 13

6 Communication Ethics in a Connected World Another region is focused by the eight chapter, Strategic communication and ethics: The case of the Romanian touristic brand. The research presented here looks at the case from a critical, social constructivist approach. Discourses about transparency and ethics of the branding initiative are discussed, which bears a lot of insights and inspirations for settings in other countries as well. The following chapter, Strategic aspects of Russia s cultural diplomacy in Europe: Challenges and opportunities of the 21 st century, is a presentation of the Russian cultural diplomacy in Europe. It mobilises the notion of soft power and discusses it, and presents also a short case study. The last chapter of this section, Commodifying and politicizing insight: A case of mediated debate of revolving doors in Norway, explores ethical questions and problems linked to the revolving doors between the world of politics and public relations industry. The text focuses on two cases from Norway to discuss the implication of the passage of politicians to public relations agencies at the end of their mandate. The third section of the book deals with identity construction and selfperception of public relations professionals and their roles, as well as with questions of competencies and education. The eleventh chapter, On the borderlines of advocacy. Situational professional ethics in the identity construction of public relations consultants, explores the contradictions between the personal perception of Swedish public relations consultants and the logic of the market in which they operate. These contradictions influence the identity construction of these professionals, and also legitimacy and institutionalisation of the profession in Sweden. The following chapter, The knowledge, skills and competencies for effective public affairs practice. A mechanism to embed ethics, is a discussion on the utility of a competency-based approach to embed ethics into public affairs practice in the United Kingdom. The text contributes in this way to the discussion about the relationship between public affairs and democracy. The thirteenth chapter, Teaching ethical principles for PR. An empirical study on university curricula in Germany, elaborates on the analysis of 46 study curricula in communication management in Germany, in order to understand if and how ethical aspects and competencies are present in these curricula. The results show a very diverse situation. The following fourth section is dedicated to specific ethical aspects of the presence of public relations in the public sphere. 14

7 Introduction The fourteenth chapter, Ethical hateholders and negative engagement, a challenge for organisational communication, is a conceptual study on the causes of negative engagement of stakeholders that become hateholders, and in particular on the role of organisational behaviour and ethics. The authors show how organisational faults are often at the origin of stakeholders negative emotions. The chapter Ethical implications of gamification as a public relations strategy discusses ethical implications of gamification as a communication strategy increasingly adopted by organisations. The empirical basis is the comparison between codes of ethics of public relations and frames found in enterprise game platforms. The fifth section is not directly linked to the main theme of the congress, but presents two chapters dedicated to employee communication and engagement. The sixteenth chapter, Strategic employee communication what does it really mean? Towards responsible dialogue as a missing piece, deals with internal strategic communication, and discusses the implications of the actual communication environment which leads to a more active role of employees. The authors propose the paradigm of responsible dialogue as an important component of the communication palette. The following chapter, Beyond sentiment: exploring online employee engagement. An empirical study of an online employee newsroom, explores internal communication within a global software company and analyses engagement in terms of views and volumes of comments to posts on the platform. The results of this in-depth analysis are also useful for determining editorial choices in order to support engagement. The final section of the book is dedicated to challenging national and international research on public relations and strategic communication. The texts have been selected due to their high quality and their relevance based on peer reviews; they explore new phenomena or offer new insights. The eighteenth chapter, Mentoring in public relations: An international study on mentoring programmes of professional associations, presents the phenomenon of mentoring of young professionals by senior colleagues in public relations and communication, and discusses the results of a qualitative and quantitative research on mentoring programs offered by professional associations around the world. The following chapter, How global is the web 2.0 hype? An international comparison of social media communication in Brazil, Germany and Portugal, tries to get beyond the common idea that participative communication on the web is a universal and homogeneous phenomenon. The article compares the situation in three countries in 15

8 Communication Ethics in a Connected World Europe and Latin America, using different data and methodologies to underline the fact that integration and professionalization of social media communication varies from one country to the other. The twentieth chapter, The use of media in activist public relations. Framing the Defending our honour movement, presents the analysis of the media relations developed by a social movement in Turkey. The authors use a framing approach to explain which techniques were used by the social movement and which effects could be observed in the mass media. After many hours and quite a lot of energy spent in editing the volume and interacting with the authors, we are honoured to offer this interesting selection of articles as a contribution to the improvement and evolution of public relations and communication sciences. We sincerely thank all the authors for their effort and their contribution to the volume. We hope this book will help researchers and professionals in their quest for new understanding and new practices in the exciting and crucial field of strategic communication. We also hope that the book will give a new impulse to the research of new ways of linking the call for ethics and justice to everyday decision-making, in the context of our complex and interconnected world. Prof. Dr. Andrea Catellani Prof. Dr. Ansgar Zerfass Prof. Dr. Ralph Tench 16

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