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From the Chair "Beyond communication: A global opportunity for public relations"

May 23, 2012

 

Since its founding in 2000, the Global Alliance has been a global voice for one profession that goes by two names: public relations and communication management.

 

While each term has its advocates, my own experience is that the latter – i.e., communication or communications -- is more in vogue today, due largely to concerns about executives and audiences associating ‘PR’ negatively with ‘spin,’ or narrowly with publicity.

 

In an essay every professional should read, veteran industry journalist Paul Holmes argues that we too often sell ourselves short by restricting the scope of our counsel to communication alone. He recalls Arthur Page’s axiom that ‘public perception of an organization is determined 90 percent by what it does and 10 percent by what it says.’

 

The implication: we must influence what an organization does if we are to be truly effective in helping strengthen its relationships, reputation and value. Perhaps one way to think of the PR/communications professional’s evolving role is that we couple our knowledge of the organization’s character and values with our insights into the attitudes and behaviour of its publics; the result can be intelligent counsel not just about communication, but also about how the organization itself should change.

 

This idea has long animated the Global Alliance’s advocacy for the profession. In 2010, we engaged more than 1,000 practitioners, academics and PR association leaders from some 30 nations in developing the Stockholm Accords, a bold brief for the role of PR/communications in governance, management, sustainability and internal and external communication.

 

This year, we hope to take the dialogue we began in Stockholm to a new level.

As we approach the World Public Relations Forum in Melbourne this November, we aim to use this landmark gathering to create a new Melbourne Mandate for Global Communication. We are inviting public comment on the role of public relations in defining organizational character, building a culture of listening and engagement and understanding individual, professional and organizational responsibility; we will also have working groups exploring these issues, and the Melbourne Mandate abstract will help to frame the academic research colloquium that precedes the Forum.

 

The months ahead are among the busiest on the international industry calendar, and I look forward to speaking and meeting colleagues at conferences in Finland, Canada, the U.S. and South Africa in June and July. As communication changes our world, our dialogues have never been richer, and our opportunities have never been greater.

 

Early public relations leaders spoke of the need to transform executives’ views of PR from a one-way process, driven by the goals of the organization, to a two-way process of relationship-building, driven by both organizational goals and the public’s interest. Today’s environment presents our profession with an unparalleled opportunity to go beyond communication — both practising what we preach and perfecting what we practise.