A Christian Approach to Public Relations
Senior communication and sociology/anthropology double major Eve Harbison-Ricciutti shares what it means for her to incorporate Christian beliefs in the public relations field. The Principles of Public Relations course helps students such as Harbison-Ricciutti explore what it looks like to live out their Christian faith in a professional environment. As a part of the course, she developed a personal Ethics Plan to help her confidently handle ethical issues in her future career, a condensed form of which appears here.
Influenced by my own Christian faith and ethical perspectives, the three principles of accuracy, honesty, and fairness will be the focus for my ethics plan. Public relations, as a profession, serves as an excellent example to highlight the ways in which using faith to guide one’s professional actions can lead to more ethical and effective results. Additionally, it is important to note that by choosing to follow Christ as a Christian, one is always recognizing the ways in which they can both serve God through their vocation and to disciple others to Christ.
Part of advocating for publics, as a PR practitioner, is understanding one’s priority as an advocator and sacrificing one’s self-interest for the greater good of society (Edgett, 2002). As a PR professional, I will inevitably be faced with challenging decisions that could gravely impact the publics I am interacting with and remembering that part of my role is to advocate for them helps put my choices in perspective. This idea is also biblically based, as Jesus advocated for many unrepresented minorities.
Honesty is another vital principle of an ethical PR guide that is highlighted in the literature, PRSA, and IABC. As Grunig, Toth, & Hon (2002) argue, “In public relations, dealing honestly with publics leads to the trust that, in tum, enhances the relationships between the organization and those publics” (pp. 60). Honesty is the best way to build trusting, healthy, and credible relations between the organization and the publics. Additionally, the Bible talks frequently about the importance of speaking truths, treating others how you want to be treated, and walking in integrity.
A final key ethical principle is fairness. Working with people can be complicated. As a PR professional, there are competing interests that have to be balanced. Balancing the needs of the organization, the publics, and oneself is not easy. Equally valuing the ones with power in organizational situations and the ones with less power helps maintain that healthy and beneficial balance between organizations and publics.
Many aspects of public relations can either be related back to the Christian faith, or it can be guided by the values of the Christian faith to be more effective. As a Christian, I feel as though I am called to bring my faith into my career as a PR professional. Not only are the principles of advocacy, honesty, and fairness biblically grounded, but they also result in valuable outcomes for the relationship between the organization and their publics.