The use of persuasive mass communication techniques by public relations and advertising practitioners, rather than abating in influence as early theorists hoped because of more widespread education, is an increasing component of both private and government communication. In an information environment, persuasion serves a public interest when it assists social utility, but there has been no “macro‐ethical” consistency by practitioners. Indeed, today's global business environment demands an ethically conscious corporate attitude since various publics expect business organizations to take on a greater role in solving community problems—they want to see corporations be ethical in word and act. However, the lack of a single common framework for deciding what is ethical and what is not thus ultimately influences the outcome of public policymaking and the reputation of public relations. This article argues that business ethics matter for the bottom line, with ethical practice and openness in communication the keys to survival in the 21st century. Amoral leadership, exemplified by situational management theories, is outdated (and worse, increasingly ineffective). Change, however, also requires action and a willingness to be open to communication to many constituencies and cultures. Old internal divisions in firms also must be dissolved, with more flexible structures and communications interplay encouraged. Experienced international public relations practitioners must be part of this change.
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