The establishment of the Melbourne Mandate at the Seventh World Public Relations Forum, 18-20 November 2012, Australia
The Melbourne Mandate is a mandate for the public relations and communication management industry, which was completed at the Seventh World Public Relations Forum (WPRF) in Melbourne, Australia. The mandate featured an interactive and transparent process, where more than 800 delegates from 29 countries reviewed the mandate and provided feedback building on the work of over 200 practitioners and professionals who prepared working papers and a draft consolidated mandate for review.
In a world where information is shared across numerous platforms from multiple sources, and where there’s been a decline of trust in institutions, there are new challenges and opportunities for organisations and for society. The Melbourne Mandate comprises a set of roles, responsibilities and principles for public relations and communications professionals, and has been endorsed by the attendees of the WPRF.
At the WPRF on Monday, 19 November, the Melbourne Mandate Symposium was held and facilitated by Virginia Trioli. With the help of our co-chairs of our three working groups, delegates were asked to review the latest draft. The delegates were separated into three groups to discuss the three pillars of the mandate:
The definition of organizational character and its values
The ability of an organization to listen, and its culture
- The responsibility of practitioners to society, the organization, their profession and themselves.
The mandate states that public relations and communication professionals have a responsibility to define and maintain an organization’s character and values; build a culture of listening and engagement; and instil responsible behaviours by individuals and organisations.
Delegates had the opportunity to review the working papers, discuss ideas with their peers and provide feedback to the GA on what they would like to see changed, added or omitted. It was a collaborative process where the delegates could consider the mandate and write ideas or suggestions on cards to be integrated into the final Melbourne Mandate paper. There was also a dedicated WPRF Smartphone application (app) with a survey on the Melbourne Mandate to take feedback electronically.
Over the next 24 hours, Jean Valin, founding member of the Global Alliance and Dan Tisch, Chair of the Global Alliance, with the help of several GA board members collected the delegates’ feedback on paper and through the app, reviewed the comments and integrated the information into the Melbourne Mandate draft statement. The following day, the final Melbourne Mandate was presented and unanimously approved by the delegates.
The collaborative and transparent nature of the process allowed PR and communications practitioners to contribute to the most recent mandate of the profession.
While gaining consensus on the Melbourne Mandate was not easy, much harder still is making it relevant to the day-to-day work of public relations in modern organizations. On this critical question, several ideas emerged from the Forum:
Benchmarking your organization: PR and communication professionals can use the concepts in the Mandate – and tools such as the ‘integrity index’, which measures an organization’s adherence to its own stated values – to benchmark PR practices within their own organizations.
Dialogue with managers: The Mandate can be the basis for a discussion about the role of PR with senior executives and managers from other disciplines. Again, the core question for exploration is whether the organization is using PR in a truly strategic way.
Professional development planning: PR and communication professionals can consider the individual skills and organizational capacities needed to implement the Mandate in their organizations – and incorporate them into professional and organizational development plans.
- Advocacy: The conference urged the world’s professional associations to officially endorse the Mandate and use it as an advocacy tool to make the case for public relations at the local, national and international levels.
The document is thought-provoking reading for anyone interested in PR and organizational communication. For it to go beyond words, however, public relations professionals and those who employ them must consider it worthy of not just pause for thought, but also cause for action.
The full mandate can be read here.