Proactive communication leads the way down-under as practitioners get ready to head south for WPRF 2012 in Melbourne
With the world’s public relations and communication professionals heading down-under to Australia for the region’s first ever World Public Relations Forum, we asked Nicolas Turner, PRIA President for some insights into the country’s world of PR.
Multiculturalism is regarded as an enriching feature and Australia is home to a diverse population. What are the main challenges and opportunities in such a multicultural society?
I live in Hobart in Tasmania, the southern island state of Australia with a population of about 500,000 people. I think we are very open to change. While we do not have the multicultural diversity of, say, a city like Melbourne, as a smaller community, it is easier for us to accept change. I think broadly speaking we (Australia) are a tolerant society and accepting of change.
Let’s focus on the state of PR in Australia. How is the Public Relations landscape in your country? What are the main challenges and opportunities for the profession?
Unfortunately, communication is often the first service to be dispensed with when budgetary cuts are considered. So I think difficult economic conditions are potentially a major problem for our industry.
Modern managers of businesses need to be innovative and forward-thinking in their approach to dealing with the day-to-day challenges these conditions present. PR practitioners are no different. As a professional communicator, I see the benefits every day of maintaining a proactive communications program through difficult periods. This is the case whether it is through new media or more traditional communication channels. The reality is, whatever method selected, or whatever economic conditions are being experienced at the time, effective marketing and communication and building and maintaining relationships with communities and stakeholders is crucial.
Has the geographically isolated position of Australia affected the development of the PR profession and the relationship with the PR community worldwide?
The general approach for the PR task is pretty universal. But I am looking forward to speaking to internationally-based practitioners in Melbourne to explore this. Part of the appeal of the conference in Melbourne for me is the opportunity to interact with professional communicators from around the world and learn first hand about how they approach the types of issues that we are managing in Australia.
Let’s talk about PRIA. Who are PRIA members? Which are the main bodies the Institute relates to?
The PRIA is the national professional body for public relations and communication professionals in Australia. The PRIA is an organisation for individual members (about 3000 people). The PRIA also caters for agency membership (about 150 consultancies) through a dedicated program for consultancies. Known as the Registered Consultancies Group (RCG), it is the industry body for people who own public relations and communication consultancies across Australia.
PRIA members work with a wide range of interests and industries across many communication disciplines. Our members represent virtually every sector of the profession – consultancies, corporates, government and community interests.
Besides its code of ethics, PRIA has also developed a code of practice. What is the ultimate purpose of this document? Do all PRIA members need to commit to it?
For the PRIA, ethics are our moral principles. We are currently reviewing our Code of Ethics to ensure it underpins everything we do. Our revised code will cover honesty, integrity, transparency, accountability, confidentiality, objectivity, respect and obedience to the law. And yes, all PRIA members must commit to the code of ethics.
What are the main services and initiatives PRIA offers to its members? What is the added value of becoming a PRIA member?
Career and professional development, build your skills, networking opportunities with other like-minded professionals, education opportunities, professional recognition (awards) and international affiliations.
PRIA has a clearly stated commitment to education and training. How does PRIA support the professional development of Australian PR practitioners and how does it relate to students and the academic world?
Since the early 1990s the PRIA has accredited Australian public relations and communication degrees across Australia. Studying an accredited degree essentially provides graduates with a guarantee that they will be well prepared for their career. Members benefit from continuing professional development and mentoring.
Let’s talk about the WPRF. On November 18-20 the WPRF will be held in Melbourne - the first time the WPRF has been held in the Asia Pacific region. What does hosting the event mean for PRIA? In your opinion, what are the main opportunities for the city and for delegates who will attend the Forum?
Australia has its own very strong PR professional network here through the PRIA. It is very important that we expose what we do to the rest of the world. We have lot of good stories to tell and we will be looking forward to telling our international colleagues about our success.
Meeting international colleagues who are like-minded about personal professional development and industry advancement, hearing about best-practice and how it can be applied and discussing the next big thing in communications are all things delegates can look forward to. At the same time, the forum presents an opportunity to interact with like-minded international colleagues and celebrate achievements.
According to the 2012 “Economist Intelligence Unit global “livability” study”, Melbourne is the most livable city. What do you consider gives it this advantage?
Like many of the delegates at the conference, I will be a visitor to the city. But I am a regular visitor. I love sport and it is clearly the sporting capital of Australia. But I don't think there will be much sport on when we are hosting the WPRF, so let’s instead focus on restaurants, cafes and bars because there are plenty of those.
I would be surprised if there was no exhibition of note on at the time, so let's also say galleries, the theatre, museums and libraries. I find the Melbourne Museum particularly interesting. And getting around the city on public transport is just so easy.
What skills, knowledge and technical expertise has PRIA called upon in order to host and organize such a great event?
We engaged one of the country’s leading meeting and event management companies (its MD is a PRIA Fellow) to assist us. Plus, senior members of the PR profession sit on various committees to ensure for example, content is appropriate for the audience. We have also worked very closely with the Global Alliance.
How has the response from the global public relations community so far? Where do delegates come from? Are they arriving from every continent?
Registrations have been fantastic and are well above expectations to date. The early bird registrations close on the 25th September and already we will have nearly 600 attendees with still two months to go. Delegates are so far coming from 22 nations representing all continents except Antarctica!
PRIA boasts a great presence on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Blog). How has PRIA included these communication platforms in the WPRF promotion strategy? What role do they play in raising interest?
Modern communication professionals are ensuring that social media is integral to the communication strategies developed for organisations, businesses, government, not-for-profits and individuals. It was important that we did the same thing for the WPRF.
We have used these communication mechanisms to update delegates and potential delegates as often as possible. They have played a significant role in generating interest because of their immediacy. The feedback we have received about the information distributed has allowed us to adjust our social media communications as required.
We also sent information to our entire contact database via email of key and speaker announcements. All non-renewed members also received a copy of an information brochure about the conference. PRIA directors and our various regional division committees also received electronic copies of the brochure to pass onto their networks.