Learning by the Lakeside – Bledcom Symposium tackles the state of the profession and public trust in organisations
The 19th International Public Relations Research Symposium – Bledcom - was held in its traditional venue, the beautiful Lake Bled in Slovenia in July. Delegates gathered from every continent to enjoy a stimulating conference and the unparalleled beauty of Bled. For the first time Bled hosted two conferences simultaneously: one largely for academics focused on the theme The State of the Profession, with Public trust in Organizations and the Role of Communication Professionals being the subject for the corporate conference. The corporate conference featured discussions led by Prof Jerry Swerling and Prof Ansgar Zerfass on the most recent studies in the profession in the US and Europe – they also spoke at the academic conference - and also a round table discussion on Can We Build Public Trust in Our Organization and How? Emil Tedeschi (Atlantic Group), Riccardo Illy (Gruppo Illy), Wilhelm Okresek (Port Consult) and Zenel Batagelj (Valicon) were looking for the answers to those questions.
The academic conference covered a host of topics including public relations and strategic management, public relations and economics, international and intercultural issues and new theoretical insights. Chair-elect of Global Alliance Prof Anne Gregory spoke in the Panel on The Status of Public Relations Practice and Scholarship talking about the major changes in the way the UK Government is re-structuring and re-focusing its communication efforts following a 75% cut in communications budgets and a 40% cut in the number of civil servant communicators. As well as explaining the changes Anne covered what she sees as the benefits of this approach, but also expressing her fears about what she perceives as the dangers of politicisation of an independent civil service and a move towards campaigning.
A highlight of the Conference was special event honouring Profs James and Larissa Grunig, academics who have influenced thinking and practice profoundly during their long and notable careers. They gave guest lectures in the company of Dr Danilo Türk, the president of the Republic of Slovenia and honorary sponsor of the event who also spoke about the communication challenges facing politicians.
Reflecting on the Conference, Anne reports: “ It is encouraging to see the progress our profession, supported by some profound academic thinking, is making. There is no doubt that that practitioners are occupying more senior levels in organisations and that their expertise is in demand – particularly as organisations try to deal with the new world where stakeholders are empowered through technology. However, the challenge is the profession having the capability to take up the opportunities that are now being offered. Public relations isn’t really about channels and situations anymore, but about multiple, complex dialogues and organisations”.
Next year is Bledcom’s 20th anniversary and participants will be invited to submit papers or Panel ideas on any of the themes that Bledcom has covered in the last two decades. Go to the website to find out more: http://www.bledcom.com/
NB. The GAP Survey is conducted by a team from the USC Annenberg Strategic Communications and Public Relations Center led by Prof Jerry Swerling. For further information go to http://ascjweb.org/gapstudy/
The European Communication Monitor is conducted by a team drawn from Universities across Europe led by Prof Dr Ansgar Zerfass of the University of Leipzig under the auspices of Global Alliance member EUPRERA. For further information go to http://www.communicationmonitor.eu/