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«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»

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As it was mentioned in the literature review, one the largest problems for public relations is dealing with duality of its responsibility before their company and publics. The responses to the research question three in this survey showed that the ability to balance between company and public interests is what makes one an exceptional professional and a moral exemplar. As a result, the things that have created so much difficulty for the definition and practice of public relations may serve as a way to distinguish between the most moral of the practitioners in the industry.

Those personalities that were named as a moral exemplar were not selected because of one event in their life but rather as a result of life-long correct choices and striving for improving the lives of others. As Walker and Frimer (2007) suggested “moral exemplars in general tended to have stronger motivational themes of both agency and communion in their life narratives than ordinary individuals” (p.857).

While this exploratory research lends itself to support the definitive role of a moral exemplar and their necessity to society, this research is indicative of the significant role a moral exemplar may play in the public relations field. Moral exemplars identified in this study were personable to the respondents. They had already established a relationship with the exemplar.

This was not a characteristic identified or emphasized by previous research. This may not only be evidence of one’s true connection with a moral exemplar but also explains the link that existence between an individual and their moral exemplar. This connection may also indicate the possible responsibility an individual may have to the moral exemplar; therefore, enacting a further desire to imitate their actions.

As the results have suggested, PR professionals have identified a frame of reference for a moral exemplar. A frame of reference that is congruent with the PRSA Code of Ethics and more importantly one that is congruent with their own personal codes of ethics. Nonetheless, due to the nature and role of a PR professional moral exemplars in the field are difficult to identify.

They work in a function that requires a lot of behind the scene activity. As students of public relation, most of their education was based and referenced on specific cases of action that illustrate appropriate behavior and action in the field with little or no reference to specific individuals.

As the research has further suggested, which may be even more sobering and portentous, is the notion that there are professionals that cannot identify anyone individual as a moral exemplar. While only a small percentage of respondents were unable to identify an exemplar, their responses underline the need for more moral exemplars in the public relations field. One respondent stated, “I must be my own moral exemplar.” Another respondent said, “ I don’t feel people look to professionals for their moral imperatives. Again, I think people’s interest in industry leaders is purely for their experience and advice.” 106 Even so, the research presented here is limited in scope and cannot expound further on why respondents were unable to identify a generally accepted moral exemplar in public relations.

Future research may want to focus on the relationships established and fostered by professionals in the field. Moral exemplars identified in this research had developed a relationship with those that deemed them as such exemplars or heroes. While the makings or heart of a moral exemplar began or grow from an individual’s character, it may initially began in the relationships nurtured by those around us.

The research put forth here is exploratory in nature; however, identifying the moral exemplars in public relations will not only establish examples of individuals who practice sound moral reasoning but also will create frames of reference for those that follow. Even if those exemplars are identified outside of the public relations professions, as previously mentioned, when an individual references an exemplar they compare their own character and actions to that of the exemplar. This comparison can serve has a gauge to measure one’s own moral temperature as well as encourage self-improvement. This exercise of comparison and self-awareness is indicative to the highest stage of moral development when the individual applies their own standards of morality coupled with universal principles of moral reasoning. Louis Pojman (2006 may have said it best, “What is important is that we recognize that principles without character are impotent and that virtues enliven the principles and empower the moral life in general” (p.


This research has further established the significance of a moral exemplar in the public relations field that would help to support and advance professional moral and ethical standards.

We hope that it will help to spark a discussion in the field and further discover the attitudes towards the call for a general exemplar in the field as well as establish specific roles for the profession. While this research was able to address some important questions there are several other questions that are left for future research on moral exemplars in public relations. One, is there a need for moral exemplars of a general consensus? The public relations practice has proven to be most critical to the establishment and practice of most organizations and with such vast and varied placement it may be difficult to establish a generally accepted exemplar.

Second, what is the function and role of the moral exemplar in the public relations field and how can they contribute to the practice of sound ethical decision-making? Moral exemplars are a shorthand way of reference for ethical practices. With this additional position, the PR professional’s role may become more complex with accountability to their organization, client, and their peers. Nonetheless, this supplementary role may not only create a needed cohesiveness between all parties, but also further improve ethical soundness on all parts.

These same questions can be extended internationally. Who are the moral exemplars of public relations internationally? What are the characteristics identified as a moral exemplar and how do they compare on a global scale? This may further lead to questions concerning universal standards of moral exemplars and if they do or do not exist. Nonetheless, we believe that as continued research in this area unfolds, public relations practitioners will not only be able to establish moral exemplars as general points of reference but also create a culture where practitioners are striving to become a moral exemplars themselves.

Again, the criteria of a moral exemplar that has been established by prior research is consistent with the findings in this study. They should be consistent and harmonious with one’s personal and professional world. A true moral exemplar does not distinguish between the two and their actions outreach all in an effort to meet their ultimate goal, which is striving for the improvement of self that will benefit the greater whole of society. As Pojman (2002) stated, 107 “Moral agents who go beyond minimal morality are necessary for a society if it is to overcome evil and produce a high degree of flourishing. Shouldn’t we all be more altruistic than we are?” (p. 164).



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As a formal occupation, public relations emerged, most scholars and practitioners agree, primarily in the United States in the 20th century. In recent decades, however, it has spread throughout much of the world and is practiced in various forms in more than 100 countries. This phenomenon correlates with historical developments in such areas as communication technology, market economies, democratic systems, and social interdependence (Tilson & Alozie, 2004). These social, political and economic conditions appear to be essential to the development and shaping of public relations globally, and they have an impact on the increasing importance of public opinion. Global communication has been driven as well by technology and speed and ease of travel between geographic regions; consequently, global public access to information has expanded. All these factors contribute to the development and empowerment of public opinion, a hallmark of democratic societies.

These constantly changing factors and their effect on public relations theory and practice feed the increasing need for international and cross-cultural research. Public relations scholars continue to investigate public relations practice in different parts of the world, and though there has been progress in international public relations scholarship during the last twenty years, even more research remains. For example, more countries need to be examined in terms of public relations practice, education and scholarship, and those already researched and reported on need to be re-examined, as the dynamic nature of our discipline and the forces that shape it render any assessment at risk of obsolescence just a few years after it’s completed. This paper investigates the state of public relations practice in a country that is just emerging as a significant global

presence as it grapples with the challenges of a new social, political and economic environment:


Ukraine has started a difficult but long awaited transition to statehood, democracy, and a market economy. According to Freedom House Nations in Transit reports (2008a), in Ukraine “the trend toward pluralistic democracy, human rights, and media freedom is obvious, but the overall quality of these democratic transformations has been challenged by numerous obstacles.” Some obstacles include national and local systems of government, which are weak and lack transparency, a judiciary that struggles to maintain its independence from the government, and widespread corruption that impedes political and economic developments (Freedom House, 2008b). However, the progress is noticeable in such spheres as media and civil society in Ukraine. At the national level, media is gaining more freedom, but regional media still lacks real independence. There is no censorship in the media sector; however, the influence of political and economic groups remains strong. Ukrainian civil society continues to be an important actor in Ukraine. Although philanthropy and volunteerism are still weak, the civil society is developing and growing (Freedom House, 2008a).

Economic liberalization, democratization and developments in media and civil society have had a profound impact on public relations in Ukraine. Since 1991, Ukrainian public relations has experienced gradual development and movement toward professionalization. The numbers of public relations specialists, services, educational and training programs are growing, and the quality of public relations practice is improving. However, there is very limited research in any language available on Ukrainian PR in the academic literature. More empirical evidence is needed that can help us understand the unique characteristics of practice in Ukraine.

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