The very recent formation of a confederation of public relations associations of Islamic Countries is a good reminder of the role of a professional association.
If we estimate some 3 million public relations professionals active in the world today and we sum all the member numbers indicated by all sorts of professional associations (national, international, regional and practice specific) we will notice that not more than 10% of public relations professionals belong to any professional association.
This carries with it at least two immediate implications:
a) associations in general are not considered particularly attractive by their potential members;
b) potential members, at least in part, are not aware of being such, and either do not consider themselves as public relations professionals, or do not consider public relations as a profession to the point of deciding to belong to a professional association.
When it became operative in 2002, the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management (www.globalpr.org) had these variables very much in mind, and has since succeeded in convincing some 63 associations from as many countries based in all Continents and representing some 160 thousand members in joining.
However, as much as it is impossible to run an associative entity with practically no funds, very little operative support from members and allowing totally discretionary decision making processes to a handful of visionaries who find the time to care, just these very specific attributes express, following four years of practical experience, the limited impact of such an effort.
As always, the glass can be seen as half empty or half full, and the real risk of taking the half empty view is to encourage those cliques inside associations who do not really see the point of a global organization dedicated to improving the quality of services by benchmarking and exchanging experiences, and are much more concerned about nitty gritty local issues. On the other hand the real risk of taking a half full perspective is to reinforce the typical conservativism of that handful of volunteers who run the Alliance and who, inevitably by age, experience and cultural diversity, are not necessarily all attuned to the true dynamics of the profession. On the other hand, if the associations these individuals represent in the Alliance where attuned to the dynamics of the profession their membership numbers would be much higher than they are. So why complain?
One example is Italy: Ferpi the national association as 1000 members out of a 90 thousand estimated professional population. There are also other associations in Italy (public sector, internal communication, political communication, investor relators…) but the total membership in this country does not exceed 6000, substantially less than that 10% I mentioned before.
I complain because, being amongst those handful of visionaries who find the time to care, I would be much more encouraged by members criticizing what we do, how we do it, why we do it and dictating their priorities rather than that typical and nervebreaking benign neglect or politically correct attitude saying ‘fine, you are doing just fine, keep it up…we don’t notice, but keep it up anyway, one day it will be worth it’. O shit! For example, admitting they asked to become members, should we or should we not accept member associations from Cuba, the Republic of China or the newly formed Confederation of Islamic Public Relations Associations which happens to be headquartered in Iran? Personally I believe we should. Others do not agree. Your opinion?