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Public relations comes of age with the Melbourne Mandate - working to awaken the conscience of our organizations

June 24, 2013

 

By José Manuel Velasco

Delegate-at-Large of the Global Alliance Board of Directors.

President of Dircom (Spain)


 

Carlo Collodi's "The Adventures of Pinocchio", the well- known children's story, was originally written as a serial novel. It was published in an Italian newspaper under the titles "Storia di un Burattino" (Story of a Puppet) and "Le avventure di Pinocchio", with illustrations by Enrico Mazzanti. In the original version, Pinocchio dies a gruesome death, hanged for his innumerable faults. That grown-up ending was given a sugar-coated makeover in later versions, until Walt Disney immortalized the puppet in 1940 in his second animated film.

 

Disney assigned Ward Kimball to create Pinocchio's conscience, and Jiminy Cricket was born. He represented what psychologists call the super-ego, the part of the psychic apparatus that maintains an inner dialogue with the ego to find a balance between desires and obligations, rights and duties, and dreams and reality.

 

As a result of the Melbourne Mandate, we have become the Jiminy Crickets of our organizations. To fulfil the mandate to "define and maintain an organisation’s character and values [and] to build a culture of listening and engagement", we have to work on the area of conscience. Firstly, we must listen to our own inner voice with a view to stepping outside the comfort zone in which we have settled after reaching positions of importance within the organization, although we must continue to defend the strategic value of our function. Our role of assisting the chief executive officer (CEO) on intangible issues and interacting with the leading executives of the organization's various departments empowers us to go beyond tactical tasks and contribute to refocusing the corporate vision.

 

Secondly, we must work on the conscience of our co-workers, giving them reasons to contribute to the collective story of the organization through their professional performance. We must provide them with values, role models, background and targets, as well as feedback from stakeholder engagement. Every person must feel that his or her story forms part of the company's history. The greater a person's responsibility, the greater the footprint she will leave behind.

 

Under the Melbourne Mandate, communication professionals cannot simply watch events occur and then convey messages to stakeholders. Nor is it enough to act like a conductor, whose role is to bring an orchestra together in harmony. We must aspire to participate in writing the music. We must look our colleagues in the eye and ask them what we can do to enable them to better connect with their surroundings without losing sight of the principles that guide the organization.

 

In Collodi's story, Jiminy Cricket appears when temptations beset Pinocchio. In our profession, it's not enough for our conscience to appear before something occurs that could jeopardize the company's reputation. Rather, we must adopt a grown-up role: awakening the conscience of our organizations.

 

Clearly, this role is much less comfortable and more demanding than that of the messenger or whisperer, and has considerably less star-power than Gepetto or Pinocchio. In fact, the cricket's greatest virtue is that, when it sings, though it cannot be seen, it can still be heard.