Ethics & Credibility in Public Diplomacy

June 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Been reflecting on the difference — if there is one — between ethics and credibility in public diplomacy. Why I raise the possible distinction has to do with the focus on messages/informational PD approaches and relational/networking PD approaches.

I do not see the approaches as mutually exclusive, but rather a matter of emphasis.

Similarly am thinking information-based PD initiatives would tend to emphasize credibility. Source and message credibility would be the pivotal element of an effective information-based PD initiative.

Ethics, specifically ethical behavior, would be the pivotal element of relation-based PD initiatives.

Why the different emphasis? Credibility associated with believability. Greater credibility enhances the persuasive value of a message (basic persuasion theory,back to Hovland).

Ethical behavior may have a component of credibility, such as action matching words. However, the real power of ethical behavior is that it tends to engender trust. Trust is the basic building block of relations and network.  Trust is also the most frequently cited component in organizational-public relations literature.

My general sense from the PD literature is that credibility and ethics feed into each other and reinforce each other. However, the distinction is not as pronounced, or discussed.  Credibility perhaps receives much more attention, which is perhaps not surprising given that information/messages tend to dominate the literature.

I think this may  change. I think there is more, or we need to delve deeper into the distinction as the PD field moves from information-based to relation-based strategies. My guess, is that as relational and networking PD initiatives receive more attention that “ethical behavior” will gain prominence in PD discussions.

Still a thought-in-process, appreciate the synergistic ideas as well as research leads readers may find.

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