OPTION 1: Persuasion and Ethics
One of the founding figures of public relations in the United States, Edward Bernays (1955), argued that persuasion is a core part of media management, and that PR specialists should use information to engineer public support for an activity, cause, movement, or institution. Later communication scholars, such as James Grunig, have questioned whether persuasive PR strategies and tactics are ethically justified. Essay question: Is persuasion an ethically justifiable aspect of public relations? Discuss.
Option 2: CORPORATE PR and csr Strategies
By meeting its corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards, an organisation can help secure its reputation. However, it has been suggested that most corporations CSR efforts simply boil down to carefully tailored public relations documents designed to bolster a companys social image and equate to little more than window dressing. Essay question: Do most CSR efforts today amount to little more than public relations exercises and window dressing? Discuss.
Option 3: Corporate Reputations and Crisis Management Strategies
It has been said that a reputation takes years to build and can be ruined in minutes. To that end, corporations have paid close attention to looking after their brands and fully recognise the need to manage any organisational issues and crisis promptly. However, while crisis communications strategies can save a reputation, they can also prevent an organisation for being held fully accountable for a crisis of internal origin. Essay question: are the strategies used for crisis communications effective at image restoration and are they ethical? Discuss.
OPTION 4: PR PARADIGMS AND STRATEGY SELECTION
System theory, dialogic theory and organisational rhetoric are the three dominant paradigms influencing public relations research and scholarship today. But how relevant are they for practitioners looking for guidance regarding the development of effective and ethical PR strategies? Essay questions: which paradigm provides the most useful framework in regard to developing effective and ethical public relations strategies? Discuss.
OPTION 5: Lobbying Strategies for Public Affairs
Grunig and Hunt (1984, pp. 215-216) argued that at its purest, lobbying means providing sufficient data to a legislature so that all the facts can be known before a vote is cast. Such dialogue is often welcomed by government officials, as it can potentially lead to better policy decisions. However, some lobby groups have shown a willingness to use their resource power to win arguments in the marketplace of ideas against government policy. Essay question: what public relations strategies are effective for public affairs and lobbying activities, and are they ethical?
Option 6: Organizational Rhetoric
The Ancient Greek philosophers and their writings on persuasion and rhetoric have had an enduring impact. However, the Hitler problem captures the ethical challenge for rhetoric scholars (Gehrke, 2009). For Adolf Hitler, rhetoric championed and justified national expansion and ethnic cleansing (Range, 2016; see also Burke, 1966). Such examples emphasize how Aristotles ideas on persuasion can be misused. The question for public relations researchers is: how can we ensure organisations and PR practitioners are engaging in what Robert Heath calls responsible advocacy? Essay question: Assess the extent to which corporations and lobby groups can practice responsible advocacy in a marketplace of ideas.
Option 7: Digital Influencers
Since the advent of social media and smartphones, individuals have been empowered in ways previously unseen, thanks to new tools for connecting, promoting, and distributing content. This has led to the rise of YouTube stars and digital influencers across different social media platforms. The industry has been quick to embrace influencers as message carriers, but questions remain regarding whether the use of digital influencers as part of a PR campaign can be ethical and whether it fits with traditional models of public relations practice. Essay question: Analyse the use of influencers by the public relations sector, considering their efficacy and the ethical implications associated with their activities.