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Celebrating a Profession: the Global Alliance ‘birthday’ and the labours that led to a global association

April 29, 2014

 

By Jean Valin, CPRS, one of the GA’s founding members

 

If someone asked me to pick a date for the decision to form the Global Alliance as we know it today, I would say, after reading minutes of the fourth meeting of interested parties, that it was in Ottawa on 3 June 2000 that a coalescence of minds and ideals was agreed to by the leading public relations associations from around the globe. From that meeting in Ottawa, hosted by the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS), where the Canadian national conference was taking place, a hefty report on more than a dozen areas under discussion - ranging from the objectives of the Alliance to its name and headquarters - was produced and circulated.

 

In parallel, a first tangible milestone, the signing of nine reciprocity agreements between CPRS and associations of similar standing, provided the impetus to move forward and crystalize our will to unite as a profession.

 

It was also an opportunity to showcase another benefit of the nascent GA gatherings by offering speakers of international caliber to a national gathering of public relations professionals- a model that was replicated often with GA leaders offering to speak at these events.

 

The official signatures came four months later on October 24 in Chicago with the respective leadership of the 25 founding member organisations agreeing the consensus positions hammered out in Ottawa.  More details on the timeline of events towards formation and development can be found here: http://www.globalalliancepr.org/website/sites/default/files/nolie/GA%20History/Timeline-GA-history-1996-to-2013.pdf

 

However, the four-year road to formation of the GA was not always clear sailing. There were moments of drama and dissention, followed by the euphoria of wanting to pool resources and work together for a common good, something that is reflected in the GA mission itself.  In subsequent years, the mission was given life and a first strategic plan was adopted. The early emphasis on ethics resulted in the adoption of a global code of ethics for the public relations and communication management profession - now a requirement to membership in the GA.

 

Recently, friend and colleague Fraser Likely of Canada encouraged me to document the history of the GA and tell the story as I witnessed it from the early years to today. Being a novice at writing peer reviewed papers, I sought the expert help of current GA Chair Anne Gregory and enlisted Fraser as well.  We were selected to present the paper to the International history of public relations conference in Bournemouth last July and later modified it to be published in PR Review. See http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811114000319 and http://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/historyofpr/2013/08/19/ihprc-2013-proceedings-published/

 

The journey to write such a paper was daunting for me. Our first goal was to establish a factual baseline of events, which involved re-constituting a sequence of documents going back to the late 1990s. We then focused our thoughts on the reasons why the GA came about, arguing that it was both a driver and product of globalization efforts throughout society in the run up to the millennium.

 

The other clear motivation was the sheer determination of GA members to work together to grow the profession - a driver that still animates discussion around the GA board today.

 

Readers of our paper will become acquainted with the main issues that had to be overcome or - as is the case still today - continue to present challenges. As authors and volunteer leaders in the Alliance, Anne and I took a critical view at the GA accomplishments, its future prospects and identified paths to overcome challenges.

 

A collateral benefit of taking a critical look down memory lane is that we have documented and assembled an archive of GA documents that now reside at our GA center in Lugano. It also allowed me to renew contact with colleagues who were instrumental in the formation of GA, pick their brains and access their files. The paper however is far from being the opinion of the three co-authors. To arrive at a balanced and impartial account of history and the events that led to its formation, we conducted interviews with key individuals who represented diverse views on the germ of project that was to become the Global Alliance.

 

Come June 3, I will raise my glass to a birthday that made me proud to be part of a passionate group of people who saw an opportunity to raise standards, share knowledge and advance the profession.