This study aims to explicate the characteristics of ethical knowledge according to a knowledge management theoretical framework that conveys ethical knowledge as a form of tacit knowledge that is personal, subjective, intangible, and difficult to communicate to others.
The study is based on a survey with 350 public relations practitioners in the USA.
The findings show that ethical knowledge in public relations, as a professional construct, is tacit only to the extent that it is a personal body of knowledge grounded in individual actions and experiences, but it is explicit in that it is tangible and could be communicated and shared in the workplace. Age, work experience and the number of ethics courses taken in an individual's public relations career are some of the significant determinants shaping the public relations practitioners' conceptualizations of ethical knowledge.
The study reinforces the importance of a holistic approach to ethics, where structured and formal training programs and codes of ethics are supported directly by a congruence between formal initiatives and public relations professionals' personal values.
By explicating the characteristics of ethical knowledge and its implications on knowledge transfer of ethics in public relations, and in understanding the determinants shaping public relations professionals' conceptualization of ethical knowledge, this study offers an empirical contribution to an area of study that has received mostly normative and philosophical discussion.