Public Scepticism and the 'Social Conscience': New Implications for Public Relations
University of Canberra Division of Communication and Education
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of Communications and Multimedia
In the wake of the recent Enron Corporation collapse, and the demise of local insurance company HIH, consumers are becoming increasingly sceptical of business morality. The relatively robust trust investors held in company directors is under threat as they question the integrity and priorities of large corporation. Consequently, the cultivation of ethics in organisational behaviour has become imperative to corporate credibility. Corporate public relations must now focus on nurturing strong, honest relations with its publics, communities and the environment to challenge negative public perception. Public relations practitioners ‘should be shaping the action and deeds of our companies, not just the words’ (Paine, 2001, p47). This article will illustrate how increased public scepticism has influenced the role of the public relations practitioner. The notion of the ‘social conscience’ will be defined, and discussed with reference to the theory of ‘excellence’ in communication. The role of the social conscience in developing public trust and organisational credibility is also examined.