This is, for once, a positive story on how the public relations professional community is able to get its act together and to make an effective impact on the public sphere while promoting a sustainable view of the profession..
You migh have heard of the US talk show host Tavis Smiley, leadoff speaker at PRSA’s very recent Salt Lake City International Conference, urging PR people to stop spinning (if you haven’t, please read this piece Stop the Spinning.doc…it is truly devastating…).
I am instead referring to the way in which CERP (the european public relations operational arm of the Global Alliance, in representation of some 25 national associations of as many EU member States), led by Margaretha Sjoberg, head of the Swedish Association, by Colin Farrington from UK’s CIPR, Gianni Rizzuti from Italy’s Ferpi, and Rose Marie Losier from Spain’s Dircom, undertook only a few months ago to consciously relate with EU Commission’s White Paper on Communication (see a recent post of this document) and put forward some well identified and studied key points in order to support the bridging of the credibility divide between European citizens and their troubled regional Public Institutions.
It so happens that last February, following an exhausting and exhaustive warm up period, the Global Alliance succeeded in revitalizing a long ailing Cerp by convincing its members at a London general assembly to integrate the organization into the Global Alliance as its EU representative.
The first item on the operative agenda was the EU White Paper on Communication and the perceived need for European professional community to speak up.
A first round of opinions helped identify the priority issues to be discussed and members returned from London with a fairly good idea of what was expected of them.
Basically in some countries (Italy for one) the association promoted a road show in ten different urban centers (the final one will be held next week in Rome) in which it discussed the implications of the White Book on the profession by involving not only its own members but also students, business representatives, politicians and media.
In other countries (like the UK, Sweden and Spain, to name a few) the White Book was discussed whithin the professional community and amply publicized through web sites, journals and blogs.
In each instance the national association issued a formal statement to the Commission submitting its recommendations and suggestions on how to make the contents of the White Paper become reality.
All this activity not only gave to Cerp leadership a number of opportunities to discuss and debate with EU officials the positions which in the meantime were forming in the professional communities of the different countries, but gave the leaders of the national association to intensly relate with EU’s national representatives, laying the ground for common initiatives and programs.
As we reach the end of this program it appears more and more evident that the public relations community is capable of speaking up, of not making itself ridiculous, not always complaining, whyning or even spinning.
We have succeded in creating a conversational platform with a highly and globally relevant stakeholder (the EU Commission,not to mention National and Local Governments) and have gained the respect of many other stakeholders as well.
A similar success, as we already mentioned in a previous post, was achieved with the World Bank, the FAO and the Communication Initiative in Rome last month when the Global Alliance participated to the World Summit on Communication for Development bringing three astounding global case studies on how public relations participation to the decision making process before decisions are taken can ensure better decisions and accelerate their operational implementation.
All this goes to say and to prove that instead of always complaining that our reputation is shot and ‘let’s shoot the messenger’, we need very much to get our act together, stop spinning and act quickly and effectively.