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From the Chair: The elevation of Communication

July 25, 2011

 

It's my honour to write to you for the first time as Chair of the Global Alliance PR and Communication Management, following our recent Annual General Meeting in Lisbon. The site of the meeting - a nation working diligently with its European partners to battle a fiscal and monetary crisis - was a reminder of the critical role of communication in addressing both local and global challenges

Today's list of regional and global crises - both current and emerging - is long:

  • Europe's sovereign debt crisis could hamper a global recovery, and the consequent austerity measures in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and other nations threaten a social crisis.
  • Massive youth unemployment has spurred revolts across the Arab world, and the region's rebuilding regimes are unlikely to satisfy the public demand for change.
  • Fears about nuclear security following the disaster in Japan could be calamitous to the cause of cleaner, more sustainable energy.
  • Ongoing conflicts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and the Palestinian territories (to name just a few on the front pages) remain intractable.
  • Critical threats such as climate change and African development, while relegated to the back pages of newspapers and blogs, remain as serious as ever even as leaders struggle with other matters.

It's no wonder that the World Economic Forum has developed a list of close to 80 major global ‘threats,' as its CEO, Klaus Schwab, told us at the World Public Relations Forum in 2010.

Dr. Schwab made another point in that address that stuck with me: governments cannot do the job alone. Traditional systems and institutions simply cannot cope with today's degree of complexity and speed of change; these challenges therefore require the engagement of an entire society of stakeholders. That is why he believes the role of communications is so critical.

The core idea is an old one: every organization has its publics and its stakeholders; the strength of those relationships drives the organization's reputation; and reputation is a key determinant of value.

A newer idea - one that animates the work of the Global Alliance today - is that the role of stakeholders has changed. Stakeholders expect greater transparency from organizations, along with an active role in setting goals and determining how to report on results. The new opportunity is therefore to use communication to collaborate with stakeholders in pursuit of both success today and sustainability tomorrow.

This means:

  • Governments need to engage corporations, NGOs and ordinary citizens in their work - transforming their processes to enable more partnerships.
  • Corporations must show ‘micro-level' accountability not just to shareholders, but to all stakeholders in their success. They must also be participants with governments and civil society in tackling broader, ‘macro-level' issues that affect our communities and our world.
  • All organizations - both public and private - have both a responsibility and an opportunity to use today's amazing array of social, business and other value networks to achieve greater symmetry in communication with their audiences - exchanging information and ideas to improve their products and services, and enhance their sustainability.

There's never been a greater need for public relations in the public interest - to help bring about economic recovery, political freedom, technological advancement and social justice.

The global recession reminded us that we have never been more interconnected. Virtually every problem has both a local and a global dimension; and when nations and communities act together (as the G20 nations did in 2008, for example), change happens.

For communicators, that means elevating our profession. Even as we compete in the marketplace, we must collaborate to make that marketplace more ethical, more sustainable and more just.

We can do this by raising our standards, sharing our knowledge, strengthening our industry associations and being advocates for public relations in the public interest.

These are the goals to which our new Global Alliance Board is committed - and you will hear more about our work in the pages of this website. We look forward to your feedback, and to working with you in the exciting years to come!

With best wishes,

Daniel Tisch, APR, FCPRS
Chair, Global Alliance for Public Relations & Communication Management