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The World Public Relations Forum: Melbourne’s Mandate for PR

November 28, 2012

 

I write fresh from the Global Alliance’s Seventh World Public Relations Forum, where more than 800 delegates from 29 countries enjoyed an exceptional event in Melbourne that became Australia’s #1 trending topic on Twitter – and produced an important legacy for the public relations profession.

 

The WPRF proved worthy of its name, with speakers from every continent offering wide-ranging insights: Wadah Khanfar, the legendary former head of Al-Jazeera, painted a picture of the newsroom of the future; Boeing’s Charlie Miller, Illy’s Anna Adriani and others provided senior executive perspectives on communication; Richard Edelman spoke passionately about this being ‘PR’s time to lead.’ Paul Druckman of the International Integrated Reporting Council showed us the future of corporate reporting; and leaders from some the world’s most famous NGOs  – Amnesty International, Medicins Sans Frontieres, Action Aid, Charity: Water, the Global Poverty Project and others – showcased an array of creative case studies of advocacy through storytelling.

 

The Public Relations Institute of Australia has set the bar high for the next Forum host – Spain’s Dircom –as the Global Alliance takes the Forum to Madrid in 2014.

 

Most conferences live on only in the memories, words and images of those who were there; this one, however, could be different, as the delegates unanimously endorsed a bold new ‘mandate’ statement for the role and value of public relations today.

 

The ‘Melbourne Mandate’ – the product of a year of consultation and deliberation by the Global Alliance, capped by final changes made by delegates on the Forum floor – speaks to the role of public relations in three spheres:

 

  1. The definition of an organization’s character and values;
     
  2. The building of a culture of listening and engagement; and
     
  3. The instilling of responsibility in both organizations and individuals, reconciling our distinct and potentially conflicting duties to our organizations, our profession, our society and our own consciences.

 

While these ideas have been explored before, their identification as three emerging and interconnected roles for public relations breaks fresh ground. In addition to the 800 delegates, the Melbourne Mandate earned some strong support from many leaders outside the room, including Dr James Grunig and other noted public relations thinkers.

 

While gaining consensus on the Melbourne Mandate was not easy, it’s harder still to make it relevant to the day-to-day work of public relations in modern organizations. On this critical question, several ideas emerged from the Forum:

 

  1. Benchmarking your organization: PR and communication professionals can use the concepts in the Mandate – and tools such as the ‘integrity index’, which measures an organization’s adherence to its own stated values – to benchmark PR practices within their own organizations.
     
  2. Dialogue with managers: The Mandate can be the basis for a discussion about the role of PR with senior executives and managers from other disciplines. Again, the core question for exploration is whether the organization is using PR in a truly strategic way.
     
  3. Professional development planning: PR and communication professionals can consider the individual skills and organizational capacities needed to implement the Mandate in their organizations – and incorporate them into professional and organizational development plans.
     
  4. Advocacy: The conference urged the world’s professional associations to officially endorse the Mandate and use it as an advocacy tool to make the case for public relations at the local, national and international levels.

 

The Melbourne Mandate is thought-provoking reading for anyone interested in PR and organizational communication. For it to go beyond words, however, public relations professionals and those who employ them must consider it worthy of not just pause for thought, but also cause for action.

 

Seeing the extraordinary consensus in Melbourne – from people of so many different nationalities, faiths, cultures and practice environments – one can’t help but be optimistic.

 

As we close an exceptional year for our global professional community, please accept my very best wishes for peace, success and happiness in 2013!

 

 

 

Daniel Tisch, APR, FCPRS

Chair, Global Alliance