What does participating as a speaker at the 2014 World Public Relations Forum mean to you?
The Madrid 2014 World Public Relations Forum has great meaning for me on several levels. First, it manifests – more than ever – that public relations is now a significant global profession. The research colloquium; the broad and deep conference agenda; and the leadership status of speakers, sponsors and attendees – all these support that assertion. Second, as a former chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, this WPRF is the “payoff” for the many miles traveled and the days, months and years spent by earlier leaders in developing the GA as an impactful organization. Finally, personally, I look forward warmly to again seeing many colleagues from around the world and hearing of their progress.
In your opinion, what are the most important benefits of participating in this Forum?
In a word: “sharing.” We can – and should – all learn from each other. Today, public relations principles are protean. They are applicable in virtually every political, economic and social system in the world. So let’s see how that is working out in the four corners of the world and in between. In Madrid, educators and practitioners alike will report on progress and challenges our profession faces in a wide variety milleaux.
I’m anxious to hear that and take it back to our schools, clients and media.
What does “Communication with Conscience” mean to you?
The “Communication with Conscience” theme is very timely. As we all know, successful communication must be based on positive, conscientious action. Today more than ever stakeholders expect/demand authenticity in policy and performance in order to grant an organization a favorable reputation. Authenticity is not only honesty, it’s also sensitivity and responsiveness.
Let me give you a few examples in the public relations field in which I have been counseling for several decades – corporate social responsibility/sustainable development. This business model has grown and evolved greatly in the last few years. Now, business — i.e. business writ large – is subject to adjustment of the old aphorism: “to those whom much [power] is given, much is expected.” So, on the frontiers of CSR/SD, progressive companies are addressing issues such as “Natural Capital”, their obligations to offset the cost of depleting natural resources;developing a “circular economy” to replace the extremely wasteful current “take-make-dispose” economic model; and addressing injustices such as discrimination against women and minorities. And all of that because now such action and communication represent good business as well as social progress.
What are the most important challenges that communication professionals will have to face in the next years?
The classic public relations response to that question, of course, is to convert “challenges” to” opportunities”. I don’t mean to be facile about this: There are a number of very serious contemporary issues that our clients and organizations must try turn to their advantage and we can – and must – help them do so.
For example, former Global Alliance chair Toni MuzIFalconi has just edited a book on how to deal with stakeholder governance. Largely by developing a “listening culture”. Another important issue is the future of traditional journalism – that is, the fast-eroding wall between paid and earned media, not to mention the unreliability of would-be journalists invading social media. Finally – although a full list would require much more space – we will have to deal with the new geopolitical and economic contortions of contemporary global society: new nations, new markets, new aspirations and expectations.
What a wonderful time to be in public relations and communication management!
In your opinion, which European country has the most committed companies in terms of corporate responsibility?
Many European companies have made great progress in corporate social responsibility also know as sustainable development. However, it’s dangerous to generalize on such an important question. Still, I think an answer can at least be inferred from a study of the lists of member companies in leading CSR international organizations. (Caveats: there are, no doubt, outstanding individual companies in countries withmodest membership totals; some companies, by nature, are excellent on environment but not necessarily involved in some other CSR issues; and country size should be taken into account.)
That said, in this contextmy quick assessment of the UN Global Compact, with its ten ESG principles and a membership of 8,000 companies around the world (and some 4000 academic institutions and government representatives), is instructive:
Spain, with 1734 UNGC member companies/participants, is clearly the leader in Europe (DIRCOM, be proud). Worth noting: France (1036), Germany (338) and Demark (298).
Public relations researchers might fruitfully examine and collate membership lists of other premier CSR/SD associations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Global Reporting Initiative. And, of course, they could design the research that would give us all amore definitive answer.