What does participating as a speaker at the 2014 World Public Relations Forum mean to you?
In a word, continuity with previous WPRF conferences. The world keeps changing and the WPRF is a premier opportunity to take the pulse of our profession while sharing new ideas about the importance and characteristics of the communicative organisation as described in the Stockholm Accords and the Melbourne Mandate- both of which are now part of a professional beacon for the public relations profession.
In your opinion, what are the most important benefits of participating in this Forum?
The opportunity to exchange and interact with speakers who have been selected for their relevance to the theme of the conference. The difference between WPRF and other international conferences is that through the Global Alliance partners, we deliberately work towards a lasting legacy document, which will benefit everyone beyond those who attend the forum.
What does “Communication with Conscience” mean to you?
It allows us to explore several aspects of the Melbourne Mandate notably the importance of communicating with integrity, accountability and transparency. In the session that I will give, we will explore the connection between transparency and trust and why building trust has always been part of a lasting public relations strategy within organizations. Today’s society is interconnected and characterized by a democratization of communication channels. Social media has transformed the landscape and allows for effective two-way symmetrical communication- something that has been part of public relations theory for decades but until a few years ago, only a lofty goal without tactical possibilities. Todays communicative organisation needs to be authentic and transparent in all its actions and this of course includes communication.
What are the most important challenges that communication professionals will have to face in the next years?
Building up the myriad skill sets that are required is a huge challenge. Equally, we must become leaders within our organizations. We have attained the ‘seat at the table’ based on the relevance of our function and its importance to the reputation of organisations. Now we must lead in an equal partnership with other disciplines around that table. To be leaders we must first embrace this role and become advocates for a just society in which we all work towards the public interest. After all it is the public that gives us a license to operate and our currency with stakeholders is our reputation.
Why do you think society perceives most governments’ communication as non-transparent?
This will be explored in greater depth in my session. Here are a few elements to consider. Politicians are consistently one of the last professions we trust. Politicians aren’t alone occupying the bottom rungs. Car salesman suffers from the safe fate. Why is that? Having worked in a senior executive in government for thirty years, my perspective is that there is a lack of transparence and an obvious bias towards the short term versus long term. In communication activities, I have seen way too often a tendency to only talk about the positive and gloss over the problems and issues. The other aspect that comes into play in terms of trust is that politicians like to evolve in an arena where there is a winner and loser- normally their opponents. While this may be transparent to us, it is not conducive to building trust. Tactics that involve, partial truth, not answering tough questions, telling lies or obfuscating the truth perpetuates this lack of trust. I believe more transparency and a genuine desire to operate in a more democratic fashion with the public would help restore some of this trust deficit. The first step is to accept that holding power means keeping all the cards in your hand. Today’s society does not want to continue down this path.