Virtual Special Issue: Ethics in Public Relations and Communication Management - Looking backward to go forward

Journal of Communication Management

On behalf of the Journal of Communication Management (JCOM) Editors

Hype cycles may come and go, but fundamental questions that underpin shiny new disruptions may be more perennial, with the past having much to offer to deal with the future. Having crunched hype cycles, OpenAI’s ChatGPT has forcefully foregrounded questions of ethics in the practice and research of public relations, communication management and allied disciplines. Studies published by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in 2020 and 2023 highlighted potential ethical pitfalls in the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in public relations, including the potential for misuse of AI-assisted tools to misinform or disinform, and potential for bias in the use of bots, chatbots and personal assistants, mobile and virtual agents because the algorithms they are based on are not only insensitive to issues of diversity, but also amplify existing biases, and further marginalize minority voices (Gregory & Valin, 2020; Smith & Waddington, 2023).

Big data analytics that enable fine tuned profiling and targeting of publics also raise issues of privacy and transparency. Questions of ethics connected with the use of bots, algorithms and big data analytics are seen as emerging issues across the world. However, issues of ethics that AI-based technologies are pushing front and center are not new to the practice of communication management. Previously, the uptake of social media had unleashed another set of ethical soul searching around issues such as disclosure, openness and transparency. Ethical matters have always posed prickly tensions in the conceptualization and enactment of public relations and communication management, whether it is tied with the notion of public relations as an organization’s conscience, its role in contributing to socially responsible organizations, the ethical obligations of communicators in an increasingly globalizing and technologizing world, and an intense examination of potential incompatibilities between ethics and persuasion. In this special virtual issue on ethics in public relations and communication management, we look back to shine a light on issues that lie in front of and ahead of us.

We have carefully curated a set of highly cited foundational research on ethics published in the Journal of Communication Management along with a recent review of research on ethics that might help us to assess the role of ethics in public relations and communication management as the world encounters newer and shinier challenges around perennial problems.

The articles curated for this Virtual Special Issue are available with free access until 4 May 2023

L’Etang, J. (2003). The myth of the "ethical guardian": An examination of its origins, potency and illusions. Journal of Communication Management, 8(1), 53-67.  
Starck, K., & Kruckeberg, D. (2003). Ethical obligations of public relations in an era of globalisation. Journal of Communication Management, 8(1), 29-40. 
Fawkes, J. (2007). Public relations models and persuasion ethics: A new approach. Journal of Communication Management, 11(4), 313-331. 
Bowen, S. A. (2006). Autonomy in communication: Inclusion in strategic management and ethical decision-making, a comparative case analysis. Journal of Communication Management, 10(4), 330-352. 
Messina, A. (2007). Public relations, the public interest and persuasion: An ethical approach. Journal of Communication Management, 11(1), 29-52. 
Jackson, M., Chorazy, E., Sison, M. D., & Wise, D. (2022). Public relations ethics in the 21st century: A state-of-the-field review. Journal of Communication Management, 26(3), 294-314.



Gregory, A., & Valin, J. (2020). Ethics Guide to Artificial Intelligence in PR (2020). Chartered Institute of Public Relations.…;

Smith, A.B., & Waddington, S. (2023). Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools and the impact on public relations (PR) practice. Chartered Institute of Public Relations.…;