Lesson 2: Justifiable Lies Based on Circumstances?

“Does it really need to be said that obscuring the truth from consumers is wrong? Apparently, it does. Being vague about what entity is behind a movement is as bad as an overt lie. I’m certain these organizations will one day get caught pulling one of these scams. The consequences will be far worse than if they had been truthful from the beginning.”

“Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you” may seem to be a value which should be held universally. But Lesson #1 provides a contestation of the problems of universal ethics and the different ethical values held by individuals due to different circumstances. In fact, even the above quote may not necessarily be applicable globally—this is especially the case when public relations is defined differently in different markets. Although truthfulness is one of the ethical principles, it is possible that organizations give different weights to different principles. In fact, research shows when lies are justifiable (in terms of being consistent with one’s own conscience and what one considers to be organizationally and socially acceptable), individuals who lie may consciously believe that they are not lying at all. “In the case of justified behavior, the individual is not accountable to a requirement that normally applies on the grounds that the requirement has been undercut by an alternative one that better suits the circumstances.”

In a 2015 article published in Forbes magazine, it was quoted that in China, PR does not stand for “public relations,” but “pay the reporter.” However, as Chinese companies entered the global market, their prioritizing short-term performance above everything else, including public relations, could prevent them from growing. Thus, their increasing investments in public relations to proactively manage their reputations is integral to their international explanation.

Next Page: Problems in Ethical Practice of Global Public Relations