Case study blog : PR ethics & accepting gifts from a client (S0133122)

Module 10 Blog Topic:   As a public relations practitioner you are approached by an Indian company wanting to promote the company in Australia. One of the employees gives you a $500 Myer gift voucher to thank you for taking on the company as a client. When you try to decline, you are told that gifts are common practice in India and it would be insulting to refuse. Explain whether you adhere to your own standards of ethics in this situation, or adapt to the ethical standards of the client’s nation. Would your response be different if you were in India?

In the public relations (PR) scenario this blog topic describes, I would’ve accepted the gift in the first place in my own country or abroad IF there was no legislation, or code of ethics, or capped amount for gifts already in place stating otherwise. I would’ve accepted the gift for all the right reasons though, not because I love getting presents. As a PR practitioner it is a part of the job to recognise cultural differences and adapt to local traditions when operating in other countries (Wilcox et al. 2013, p 293).  On the same note, a PR practitioner operating in Australia would be wise to respect and accept foreign traditions from a foreign client as well. Why would it make any business sense to make a client unhappy or insulted unnecessarily?

It is the scenario that leads to the gift, the value of the gift itself and expectations before or after receiving the gift that will demonstrate whether it is ethical or not to accept (Pilon 2014). Companies accepting and giving gifts has become a part of common business etiquette, for example, companies worldwide send out a discount voucher to clients as a gift on their birthday. A discount for a pre-existing client on their birthday demonstrates a no obligation gift, therefore ethically correct to give as well as receive. The blog scenario demonstrates that the client did not become a client due to the gift, the gift itself was based on traditional beliefs and there were no underlying expectations from receiving it – so, in my opinion those facts are enough to know there is nothing ethically wrong with that situation either. To show appreciation and to cover all legal aspects though, I would provide a thank you email also reinforcing the gift was not necessary.

Pilon, A 2014, Business Gift Giving Etiquette and Mistakes to Avoid’, Small Business Trends, http://smallbiztrends.com/2014/10/business-gift-giving-etiquette.html

Wlicox D, Cameron G, Reber B and Shin JH 2013, Think Public Relations, 2nd edn, Pearson Education, New Jersey.

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Tris Kerslake (Lecturer) – COMM11110 Public Relations @ CQUniversity
Monday, 2 February 2015
SHELLEE MCCARTHY RECEIVED A ‘HIGH DISTINCTION’ FOR THIS BLOG
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