Advocacy

Advocacy is defined as “the act or process of advocating or supporting a cause”[1] ]. Today, public relations practitioners act as advocates for organizations and causes. In some cases public relations includes the self interest persuasive tactics associated with advocating, as well as genuine benevolent acts[2] ].

aristotle.jpg
Aristotle
Rhetoric and Aristotle both appear in scholarly writings about advocacy[3] ]. Aristotle supported rhetoric for a number of reasons; one being that he felt some people could not be taught and instead needed to be persuaded to see different sides of a story[4] ]. It could be said that this is what an advocate does.

Advocacy is linked with virtually every industry and cause out there. People of different skill sets, not just public relations practitioners, can act as advocates. For example, a lawyer is an advocate when defending a client. A social worker is an advocate when defending the rights and safety of a child.

In keeping with the public relations practice, there are two sides to be considered: the client or employer, and their constituents. The relationship between a public relations practitioner and their employer often puts them in a position to advocate for the people who pay them. On the flip side, “watchdog” organizations may employ a practitioner to advocate on behalf of the people affected by the larger entity. Some practitioners are tasked with the difficult position of serving both groups.


More than asymmetrical communication

Asymmetrical communication styles have been compared to that of advocacy. The communitarian view of public relations considers the responsibility to the community to be the most important thing, and rejects asymmetrical communication[5] ]. This places advocacy in a negative light by implying that an advocate cannot practice two-way symmetrical communication, which is seen to be the preferred model by many practitioners.

Sherry Baker developed five models to combine the different arguments surrounding ethical persuasive communication. The nature of advocacy is persuasive, so these models work when considering ethical advocacy.

  1. Self interest model – An asymmetrical model; looking out for number one
  2. Entitlement model – An asymmetrical model; if it’s legal, it’s ethical
  3. Enlightened self-interest model – A symmetrical model; a person best serves themselves with ethical behaviour
  4. Social responsibility model – A symmetrical model; the focus is on responsibility rather than rights
  5. Kingdom of Ends model – A symmetrical model; taken from Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative of universal law[6] ]
Baker identified different motivations in her schema[7] ], which can be applied to the different motivations behind advocacy. Depending on the practitioner and the organization, advocacy can be motivated by any one of these models.

Possible Paradigms for Ethical Advocacy Practice

Scholars have asked how a public relations practitioner can act as both the advocate for an organization and serve the interests of society.[8] ] Thomas Bivins proposed four possible paradigms for public relations practitioners to consider when keeping both interests in mind.

  1. If every PR practitioner acts in the best interest of their client, then the public interest will be served.
  2. If in addition to serving individual interests the practitioner serves public interest causes, the public interest will be served.
  3. If practitioner assures that every individual in need of or desiring their services receives their services, then the public interest will be served.
  4. If public relations as a practice improves the quality of debase over issues important to the public, then the public interest will be served. [9] ]
Bivins addressed the role of a public relations practitioner as both an advocate and a mediator, and suggested an obligation to improve the flow of information and open up issues important to the public in a transparent manner allowing for debate[10] ]. Bivins asked questions and developed paradigms while working to support the development of public relations as a profession.


[[#_ftnref1|[1]]] Advocacy. (n.d.) In Merriam Webster Online. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/advocacy
[[#_ftnref2|[2]]] Fitzpatrick, K. & Gauthier, C. (2001). Toward a professional responsibility theory of public relations ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16 (2&3), 193-212.
[[#_ftnref3|[3]]] Marsh, C. (2001). Public relations ethics: Contrasting models from the rhetorics of Plato, Aristotle and Isocrates. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16 (2&3), 78-98.
[[#_ftnref4|[4]]] Aristotle – theory text
[[#_ftnref5|[5]]] Leeper, K.A. (1996). Public relations ethics and communitarianism: A preliminary investigation. Public Relations Review, 22 (2), 163-179.
[[#_ftnref6|[6]]] Baker, S. (1999). Five baselines for justification in persuasion. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 14 (2), 69-81.
[[#_ftnref7|[7]]] Baker, S. (1999). Five baselines for justification in persuasion. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 14 (2), 69-81.
[[#_ftnref8|[8]]] Fitzpatrick, K. & Gauthier, C. (2001). Toward a professional responsibility theory of public relations ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16 (2&3), 193-212.
[[#_ftnref9|[9]]] Bivins, T. (1993). Public relations, professionalism and the public interest. Journal of Business Ethics, 12 (2), 117-126.
[[#_ftnref10|[10]]] Bivins, T. (1993). Public relations, professionalism and the public interest. Journal of Business Ethics, 12 (2), 117-126.
  1. ^
    Advocacy. (n.d.). In Merriam Webster Online. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/advocacy
  2. ^
    Fitzpatrick, K. & Gauthier, C. (2001). Toward a professional responsibility theory of public relations ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16 (2&3), 193-212
  3. ^
    Marsh, C. (2001). Public relations ethics: Contrasting models from the rhetorics of Plato, Aristotle and Isocrates. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16 (2&3), 78-98
  4. ^
    Aristotle. (c. 350BC). Rhetoric (Craig, R.T. & Muller, H. Eds.), Theorizing Communication (121-130). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  5. ^
    Leeper, K.A. (1996). Public relations ethics and communitarianism: A preliminary investigation. Public Relations Review, 22 (2), 163-179.
  6. ^
    • Baker, S. (1999). Five baselines for justification in persuasion. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 14 (2), 69-81.
  7. ^
    Baker, S. (1999). Five baselines for justification in persuasion. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 14 (2), 69-81.
  8. ^
    Fitzpatrick, K. & Gauthier, C. (2001). Toward a professional responsibility theory of public relations ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16 (2&3), 193-212.
  9. ^
    • Bivins, T. (1993). Public relations, professionalism and the public interest. Journal of Business Ethics, 12 (2), 117-126.>
    • ^
      Bivins, T. (1993). Public relations, professionalism and the public interest. Journal of Business Ethics, 12 (2), 117-126.