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Inside Italy: Patrizia Rutigliano, FERPI’s president, talks about challenges, competitiveness and the companies working to improve public communication

October 30, 2013


As we all know, most European countries have been hit hard by the economic crisis and, at present,Italy is still struggling to recover from this difficult situation. Considering also the political instability in the country, what role do public relations play in such a challenging context? How can it help enhance the dialogue between the institutions on one side and citizens and other key stakeholders on the other?


Unfortunately in our recent past, communication management & public relations have been interpreted more to reach political consensus than to serve general interest.

On the another hand, public communicators played a crucial role in legitimizing local institution roles and supporting transparent information to citizens.

One of the key challenges that I see in the next future is the communicators’ capability to engage people - severely affected by the spillovers of the global crisis - towards public interest, to support our institutions in improving their reputation and to legitimize European Union values and identity. Transparency should be taken for granted, hopefully.

Patrizia Rutigliano, President of the Italian Federation of Public Relations (FERPI)



Focusing on Italian companies, how can public relations professionals help to manage the complexity caused by the crisis and to enhance competitiveness?


Nowadays big companies have a long track record of best practices in public relations and stakeholders’ engagement.

Nevertheless the majority of “Made in Italy” industries is made by small and medium enterprises, that, as far as communication & public relations are concerned, are still conditioned by the limits of family capitalism. In this perspective, family firms tend to be very individualistic and to rely on their founders (or owners) only instead of managing communication with a managerial approach. Public relations can be crucial in supporting a more transparent and managerial approach, in helping their internationalization, in developing a stakeholders’ engagement culture.



The recent case of Barilla’s reputational crisis has clearly shown how the rise of social media have increased the exposure of companies. In your view, are Italian companies equipped with the right processes and capabilities to properly manage the risks related to these new communication platforms?


As association and professionals we embraced social media as one of most effective tools and challenging areas of stakeholders’ engagement. Crises such as Barilla’s one will always happen all over the world and our social media communicators, both in consultancy agencies and in organizations, are outstanding as wherever else, nowadays. Nevertheless, with the social media revolution there is still a long way to run for all of us.



This year you have been appointed President of FERPI for the second time. What are the main challenges for FERPI in your second mandate?


We have just been under a very busy mandate, that has seen also an intense listening program of stakeholders and members. Our working groups have sorted out tens and tens of suggestions, critique and needs. At the same time Ferpi has received, after years of efforts, an official recognition as association by the Italian Government.

The outputs of the listening process have been well analyzed and balanced under the lenses of the recognition until some main changes were implemented to be introduced in our bylaws.



What is the role of FERPI in the Italian public relations and communication management professional community?


Ferpi is the most reputed Italian association in the field of communication management; since we don’t have a huge number of members – not yet at least - our role is to lead and raise the professional standards, more than represent the Italian overall population or professionals.



Could you explain for us what the “Oscar di Bilancio” (“Financial Awards”) are? To whom are they awarded and why are they a significant prize?


Oscar di Bilancio is a long runner award, born in 1954, promoted and organized by Ferpi since almost 30 years. Oscar di Bilancio acknowledges best Corporate Reports in different industries (from financial to public sector, from not for profit organizations  to listed companies) severely looking at the capacity of engaging stakeholders and communicating social, environmental and financial aspects.