Public relations professionals are good ethical thinkers: Study

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Washington, Aug 13 (ANI): Public relations professionals are good ethical thinkers, according to a new study.

The study, carried out by Renita Coleman, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and Lee Wilkins, professor of journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbiais, is the first to measure empirically the moral development of working public relations professionals.

"It turns out that public relations professionals are good ethical thinkers. They show similarity to other professionals with comparable levels of education such as journalists, nurses and dental students," said Coleman.

Coleman and Wilkins took a random sample from O'Dwyer's Directory of Public Relations Firms, which lists the 400 largest public relations firms.

"Although this eliminated very small firms and independent practitioners, the sample included medium-sized firms, public relations departments in advertising agencies and those firms that billed less than 1 million per dollars year. In total, 118 respondents took the written DIT or Defining Issues Test," said Coleman.

The test poses six ethical dilemmas and asks respondents to rank 12 statements after each dilemma according to how important each was in making a decision.

The measure was a five-point scale where one equaled "no importance" and five equaled "great importance."

The test measures ethical reasoning in five areas: business concerns, internal motives, truth and respect, religious influences and external influences.

Test scores of the public relations professionals were compared to the scores of 19 other groups whose members had taken the DIT test in the past.

Seminarians and philosophers are the runaway winners on the moral development scale as measured by the test. After that come medical students, practicing physicians, journalists, dental students, nurses and public relations professionals.

Last on the moral development scale were Junior high school students, one notch below prison inmates.

"But that's not surprising because age and education are the best predictors of moral development - the more you have the better you do. And it shows why middle-schoolers still need their parents' guidance," said Coleman.

The study appears in the July 2009 Journal of Public Relations Research. (ANI)

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