Are academics from Mars and practitioners from Venus? By Professor Anne Gregory, Chair Elect, Global Alliance
How do you provide an enticing day in advance of the largest World Public Relations Forum ever? You put on a Research Colloquium that exactly mirrors the theme of the Forum, ‘Communication without Borders,’ and you invite the world’s best academics to come and debate the themes. ‘We hoped for 70 people to come along, but over 100 academics and practitioners booked in to a very exciting and stimulating day’ says Dr Marianne Sison, the Research Colloquium Chair.
The day was given a great start by keynote speaker Professor Mohan Dutta of the National University of Singapore who gave the public relations community a challenge by asking it to reflect on how disadvantaged and powerless communities are able to get their voice heard and on whether real dialogue is possible when the structures of power are so skewed against them. Second key note speakers Professor Judy Motion from University of New South Wales and Professor Shirley Leitch from Swinburne University drew together and added their own insights to a recurring theme of the conference – social media and what this meant for building communities around matters of concern. Additional sessions on social media explored its use in fashion, natural disasters engagement and community and reputation management.
Other themes focused on global issues, including global media relations, sustainability and corporate philanthropy in China. Understanding different cultures and communities is forcing new thinking on practice in and theory public relations. Issues and crisis management also drew strong interest and featured crisis scenario planning and information seeking in disasters. The CSR stream had a range of topics from employee commitment in India to the revival of virtue ethics. PR research and education attracted strong interest and covered teaching listening skills to critical thinking and the use of action research to enable practitioners and academics work together. The importance of culture and communities was also explored with research on Aboriginal public relations and social change in indigenous peoples being presented.
It was a full and satisfying day and the themes and issues raised fed directly into the main concerns and opportunities discussed in the World Public Relations Forum. It just goes to show, that given a common interest, academics needn’t be from Mars, nor practitioners for Venus!