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What we do > Annual Congress > 2014: Brussels
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Congress Book - Brussels 2014

September 11-13

LASCO Laboratory, Université Catholique de Louvain - IHECS Institute
Brussels, Belgium


Communication Ethics in a Connected World

Public relations, strategic communication and organizational communication have always had an important and complex relation with ethics: the work on opinion and reputation puts communication professionals directly in touch with all sorts of ethical issues, and this reality is even more evident today. Data collected in the European Communication Monitor (2012 edition) are a clear sign of this situation. A majority of communication professionals in Europe are confronted with one or more ethical challenges each year in their work, and the amount of this kind of issues increases in time. The international and intercultural nature of contemporary PR and communication practice, together with the increase of social media, make the ethical dimension of communication more and more evident and demanding.

Many different professional associations around the world have proposed deontological principles and charts. Transparency is often evoked as a necessity for nowadays organizational and communication practices. On the other side, the reputation of communication professionals has been continually under scrutiny and submitted to heavy criticism. The reputation of the professionals in charge of companies’ reputation is at stake.

One of the strongest criticisms of PR practices is the one by the philosopher Jürgen Habermas: in his book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere he describes public relations as an “engineering of consent” (recuperating the famous expression of Edward L. Bernays), a form of manipulation that distorts public sphere. Theoretical propositions in the field of PR studies have tried to show that PR cannot be reduced to some sort of propaganda. For example, the symmetrical model of James Grunig proposes forms of interaction in which the interests of the public are taken into direct consideration by the practitioner. The idea of “symmetry” in PR is an example of how scholars have proposed an ethical possible version of PR for our contemporary world. This kind of model has also been criticized, showing that concepts like “dialogue”, “symmetry” and “transparency” are often myths and not realities. Research must continue on this subject.

Many questions can indeed be raised about the relation between PR and ethics today, from different points of view. What is the place ethics has in today’s communication practice? What is the relation between ethical issues, power, (different forms of) capital distribution and rhetorical construction of communication and discourse? How is ethics evoked in PR campaigns and discourses, which are the semiotic and rhetorical forms of its presence in communication documents and situations? Which ethics, which principles can be identified as universal references for PR practice? How to develop ethical forms of communication? We propose here below a list of different areas in which these questions arise.


  • PR, new medias and ethics
  • PR ethical issues in a multi-cultural world
  • Ethical aspects of PR profession and professionalization
  • Public affairs, lobbying, and ethics
  • Sustainable Development, Corporate Social Responsibility and PR
  • Open session: Public relations, communication and society

Publication of papers

Authors have the opportunity to be selected for submission to the Journal of Communication Management or the Euprera congress book. Each publication will have strict editing criteria to be applied to the paper and a further selection process by a dedicated editorial team will follow.

Abstract and paper submission

Download the Call for Papers

For authors only:


Université catholique de Louvain (Catholic university of Louvain)

Founded in 1425, UCL is one of Europe’s oldest universities, with 28,840 students on six sites. In the 2012 QS World University Rankings, UCL was ranked 127th, making it a Belgium’s leading French-speaking university. UCL attracts every year 5,000 international students from around the globe (a number of UCL’s programs are taught in English). UCL is also the first French-speaking university in Europe to offer courses (in French and English) on the on-line platform edX. With 1 Nobel Prize, 21 Francqui Prizes (“the Belgian Nobel”) and numerous international awards, teaching at UCL is based on solid research and innovation, with a lot of applications for society (50 spin-offs and 197 enterprises in the 3 scientific parks of the university). UCL is also one of the 22 European universities to have received the ECTS label, an EU recognition of the quality of its management of international exchanges.

The LASCO laboratory (Laboratory for the analysis of organizational communication systems) is part of the Center for Communication Studies of UCL, and works in cooperation with IHECS institute (Institut des Hautes Études des Communications Sociales, Brussels). It brings together researchers of different origins, united by the common aim of observation and analysis of internal and external, strategic and spontaneous phenomena of organizational communication.

IHECS institute (Institut des Hautes Études des Communications Sociales)

The IHECS, founded in 1958, provides university-level education (Bachelor and Master degrees) in communication: Applied communication, Journalism, Public relations, Advertising and commercial communication, Socio-cultural activities and lifelong learning (Media, culture and society), Communication and European affairs. It also offers a range of Lifelong Learning courses. Its focus: teaching for career development, combining theory courses with practical experience of the media and foreign languages (English, Dutch or German, Spanish). The IHECS is a department of the Haute école Galilée (Brussels) and is part of the long and university-level social form of higher education, organised by the free network that is supported financially by the French-speaking Community of Belgium.

Congress organizer

Andrea Catellani

Ph. D., Professor
Université Catholique de Louvain



More info

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