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Public diplomacy: a higher calling for public relations

January 16, 2012


The following article by John Paluszek (immediate past chair of the Global Alliance) was written for the international, collaborative PR Conversations blog. It is republished in part here, with permission.


It is not hyperbolic to say it: Public relations professionals now have an epic opportunity to serve the global society and thereby win new appreciation of our profession.


In fact, some are already well into that mission. Let’s quickly examine the case for this admittedly bold assertion.


The “case” is a continuum, ranging from Harold Burson talking to the Soviets in Moscow in 1988, all the way to Toni Muzi Falconi’s recent guest blog post on PR Conversations,  summarizing the first Global Congress for Muslim Public Relations Practitioners—with many “stops” and elements in between.



“Mr. Burson meets the Soviets”…and onward


President Ronald Reagan in his December 23, 1988, letter:

This is simply to thank you for all you’ve done for America by fostering private sector initiatives.… I’ve always believed government could draw on the counsel of private citizens who had the knowledge and expertise to solve problems and who would willingly share them at no cost to the taxpayers…. You have given invaluable advice about public relations…. I salute you for proving so well the private sector’s capabilities.


Harold Burson had just led a group of about a dozen US public relations executives (including me) in a series of Washington, DC and Moscow meetings with our putative Soviet counterparts in an exchange of views and experiences. The Soviets were led by Alexander Yakovlev, the chief of the USSR’s Communist Party ideology and considered to be the intellectual force behind Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform program of glasnost and perestroika.


Did we help change the world, even a bit? We’ll never know, but it’s just possible. For example: Fast forward to Stockholm, Sweden 2010 and the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management’s Sixth World Public Relations Forum. Klaus Schwab, eponymous founder and executive chair of the globally influential World Economic Forum and a forum keynote speaker, encouraged our “higher calling”:


To read the remainder of Public diplomacy: a higher calling for public relations, please visit PR Conversations.