Ethics in a Global Context

Lesson Plan 1 – Contestation of Ethics in a Global Context

Key concepts

  1. Problems in global ethics
  2. Conceptualization of global ethics



(a) 3 open-ended self-assessment questions (in the PowerPoint slides) and (b) 13 multiple-choice questions (in the set of final assessment questions)


Mercedes in China


Module Overview

Lesson 1 Overview

In the practice of global public relations, whether a local or global standard of ethical practices should be adopted is debatable. This lesson will provide an overview of the different factors to consider in adoption of a local or global standard of ethical practices. Based on several research studies, it presents the different perceptions that practitioners in different countries have toward ethics and the approaches to understanding these differences.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the factors to consider in the adoption of a local vs. global standard of ethical practices?
  2. What, how and who do you think should determine what standard of ethical practices should be put in place?
  3. What do you think caused the differences in foreign publics’ different perceptions toward ethics in different countries?

Lesson 2 Overview

It is inevitable that what organizations do makes an impact on society. Globalization has increased the interconnectedness of the world, meaning that what we do in one country could affect other countries.

In public relations, we learn to segment and prioritize publics using some theoretical frameworks so that organizations could best utilize their resources to build relationships with the most important publics. But there are ethical factors which should be considered in the use of these theoretical frameworks. The concept of situational ethics reminds us that publics’ ethical priorities could differ from one country to another.

This lesson provides an overview of the ethical factors to consider in the use of the theoretical frameworks in the global context.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe the personal, organizational, professional, societal and global ethical principles which could affect practitioners’ decision making.
  2. How would you go about making ethical decisions for a public relations campaign in a foreign country?
Citations & Resources

Lesson 1

Parsons, P. (2008). Ethics in public relations: A guide to best practice (2nd ed.). London, UK: Kogan Page.

Bowen, S. A., Hung-Baesecke, C.-J. F., & Chen, Y.-R. R. (2016). Ethics as a precursor to organization–public relationships: Building trust before and during the OPR model. Cogent Social Sciences, 2(1), 1141467.

George, B. (2008). Ethics must be global, not local. Retrieved from

Gergen, K. J. (2001). Social construction in context. London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Grunig, J. E., & Grunig, L. A. (1996). Implications of symmetry for a theory of ethics and social responsibility in public relations. In Proceedings of nternational Communication Association. Chicago, IL.

Sriramesh, K., & Verčič, D. (2007). Introduction to this special section: The impact of globalization on public relations. Public Relations Review, 33(4), 355–359.

Tsetsura, K., & Valentini, C. (2016). The “holy” triad in media ethics: A conceptual model for understanding global media ethics. Public Relations Review, 42(4), 573–581.

Hellsten, S. K. (2015). Ethics: universal or global? The trends in studies of ethics in the context of globalization. Journal of Global Ethics, 11(1), 80.

Drydyk, J. (2014). Foundational issues: how must global ethics be global? Journal of Global Ethics, 10(1), 16–25.

Wonicki, R. (2016). Global ethics and human responsibility: challenges for the theory and the discipline, 9626(September).

Dower, N. (2014). Global ethics: dimensions and prospects. Journal of Global Ethics, 10(1), 8–15.

Cortina, A. (2014). Four tasks for forward-looking global ethics. Journal of Global Ethics, 10(1), 30–37.

Sriramesh, K., & Vercic, D. (2001). International public relations: A framework for future research. Journal of Communication Management, 6(2), 103–117.

Toledano, M., & Avidar, R. (2016). Public relations, ethics, and social media: A cross-national study of PR practitioners. Public Relations Review, 42(1), 161–169.

Holtzhausen, D. R. (2000). Postmodern values in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 12(1), 93–114.

Kennedy, A. (2016). Landscapes of care: Feminist approaches in global public relations. Journal of Media Ethics, 31(4), 215–230.

Lim, S. L. (2010). Global integration or local responsiveness? Multinational corporation’s public relations strategies and cases. In G. J. Golan T. J. Johnson, & W. Wanta (Eds.), International media communication in a global age (pp. 299–318). New York, NY: Routledge.

Motion, J., Haar, J., & Leitch, S. (2012). A public relations framework for indigenous engagement. In K. Sriramesh & D. Vercic (Eds.), Culture and public relations: Links and implications (pp. 54–66). New York, NY: Routledge.

Dutta, M., & Pal, M. (2011). Public relations and marginalization in a global context: A postcolonial critique. In N. Bardhan & C. K. Weaver (Eds.), Public relations in global cultural contexts: Multi-paradigmatic perspectives (pp. 195–225). New York, NY: Routledge.

Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. W. (1999). When ethics travel: The promise and peril of global business ethics. California Management Review, 41(4), 45.

Skinner, C., Mersham, G., & Valin, J. (2004). Global protocol on ethics in public relations. Journal of Communication Management, 8(1), 13–28.

Lesson 2

Freitag, A. R., & Stokes, A. Q. (2009). Global public relations: Spanning borders, spanning cultures. New York, NY: Routledge.

Price, T. L. (2000). Explaining ethical failures of leadership. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 21(4), 177–184.

Backaler, J. (2015, October 26). Chinese companies’ global public relations imperative. Forbes. Retrieved from

Wilcox, D. L. (2006). The landscape of today’s global public relations. Anàlisi: Quaderns de Comunicació I Cultura, (34), 67–85. Retrieved from

Taylor, M., & Yang, A. (2014). Have global ethical values emerged in the public relations industry? Evidence from national and international professional public relations associations. Journal of Business Ethics, 130(3), 543–555.

Fawkes, J. (2010). The shadow of excellence: A Jungian approach to public-relations ethics. Review of Communication, 10(3), 211–227.

Fawkes, J. (2007). Public relations models and persuasion ethics: a new approach. Journal of Communication Management, 11(4), 313–331.

Dutta, M. (2015). Public diplomacy, public relations and the Middle East: A culture-centered approach to power in global contexts. In G. J. Golan, S.-U. Yang, & D. F. Kinsey (Eds.), International public relations and public diplomacy: Communication and engagement (pp. 397–416). New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

Bivins, T. H. (1987). Applying ethical theory to public relations. Journal of Business Ethics, 6(3), 195–200.

Bowen, S. A. (2005). A practical model for ethical decision making in issues management and public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 17(3), 191–216.

Bowen, S. (2016, June 24). Is PR ethical? Only when its practitioners are. PR Week. Retrieved from

Grunig, J. E. (2014). Ethics problems and theories in public relations. Revue Internationale Communication Sociale et Publique, (11), 15–28.

Bivins, T. H. (1992). A systems model for ethical decision making in public relations. Public Relations Review, 18(4), 365–383.

Kim, J.-N., Ni, L., & Sha, B.-L. (2008). Breaking down the stakeholder environment: Explicating approaches to the segmentation of publics for public relations research. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 85(4), 751–768.

Thompson, P. B. (2012). Ethics and risk communication. Science Communication, 34(5), 618–641.

Kim, J.-N., & Grunig, J. E. (2011). Problem solving and communicative action: A situational theory of problem solving. Journal of Communication, 61(1), 120–149.

Kim, J.-N., & Ni, L. (2013). Two types of public relations problems and integrating formative and evaluative research: A review of research programs within the behavioral, strategic management paradigm. Journal of Public Relations Research, 25(1), 1–29.

Module Developer

Lisa Tam

Dr. Lisa Tam

Assistant Professor, Queensland University of Technology

Lisa Tam (Ph.D., Purdue University) is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) of Strategic Communication at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Her primary research interests include public relations as relationship management, relational public diplomacy and the interdisciplinary application of communication research. She has developed the Relationship Assessment of Diplomatic Interaction Outcome (RADIO) scale to propose the integration of the concept of relationship in public relations into public diplomacy. Her research has been published in academic journals, edited books and conference proceedings, including upcoming and recent issues of Communication Research and Practice, Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies, Asian Journal of Business Ethics and Journal of Public Affairs.

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